Sono Motors has killed off its Sion EV in a pivot to the solar tech sector

Sono Motors has killed off its Sion EV in a pivot to the solar tech sector

Sono Motors is ending its long-awaited electric car program and instead turning to a company that aims to sell its solar vehicle technology to other companies.

The Germany-based company, which went public in November 2022, announced on Friday that it was laying off 300 employees following the change in business model. COO Thomas Hausch is also stepping down.

The change appears to be driven by a punch of a high-cost electric vehicle program coupled with rapidly depleting capital. Sono Motors has been in financial trouble for years, at one point it nearly shut down completely until it appealed and received support from individuals through a crowdfunding campaign.

The Sion EV program, although the company’s original centerpiece, has consistently strained its budget. The company said about 90% of its 2023 funding requirement is for the Sion EV, a $25,000 five-seat sedan that is slated to go into production later this year.

Sono Motors will now focus on marketing a technology it has developed for its Sion EV: in-vehicle solar. The company’s business will modernize and integrate its solar technology, which includes power electronics and software, on commercial vehicles such as buses as well as cars produced by OEMs.

“This pivot marks an important milestone in the business development of Sono Motors,” Sono Motors CEO and co-founder Laurin Hahn said in a statement. “Even though we had to end our original passion project, the Sion program, focusing entirely on business-to-business solar solutions gives us the opportunity to continue creating innovative solar products. It was a tough decision and despite over 45,000 reservations and pre-orders for the Sion, we were forced to react to the continued instability in the financial markets and streamline our operations.

Sono said it has 23 business-to-business customers today testing its integrated solar technology on a range of vehicles, including third-party OEM cars, buses, refrigerated vehicles and recreational vehicles. Sono said he was working with Mitsubishi Europe, CHEREAU and subsidiaries of Volkswagen Scania and MAN Truck & Bus.

The Germany-based company got its start in 2016 when co-founders Jona Christians, Laurin Hahn and Navina Persteiner – looking for a way to reduce society’s reliance on fossil fuels – launched an ambitious plan to build a passenger vehicle electricity partially powered by the sun. (Persteiner left the company in 2020) From a distance, prototypes of the Sion vehicle looked like a compact car with black paint. On closer inspection, the entire exterior of the vehicle was actually made up of hundreds of solar cells that had been embedded in polymer instead of glass.

In January 2021, the company announced that it planned to license its body solar panel technology to other companies. These solar cells convert sunlight into energy, which is stored in the vehicle’s battery. At the time, Hahn said the technology would make vehicles less reliant on charging infrastructure. It can also support auxiliary power applications such as electricity used to power a refrigerated truck.

A product, called ‘Solar Bus Kit’ is planned for the second quarter of 2023.


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