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Sun-powered: German solar-electric cars to be built in former Saab factory

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Images courtesy of obs/Sono Motors GmbH and GM Media

Sono Motors — a “mobility provider” founded by three youthful forward-thinkers in 2016, in Munich, Germany — recently announced that production of its Sion, the first series-built solar-electric vehicle (SEV), will be produced by NEVS in the former Saab Automobile plant in Trollhättan, Sweden, starting in the second half of 2020.

This new company has raised an impressive 820,000-plus Euros in crowdfunding, which allowed them to design and develop the Sion model — not to be confused with the defunct, youth-focused Toyota sub-brand, Scion — to harness the power of the sun. This aluminum-intensive five-door features 248 solar cells seamlessly integrated into its tough polymer roof, hood, and body side panels, which are claimed to generate up to 1.2 kilowatts, enough sunny-day power to add up to 34 km/21 miles of range; they also generate charge on cloudy days or in shade. Those monocrystalline silicon cells are part of what Sono Motors calls the “viSono” and “biSono” systems, the latter of which describes how, thanks to bidirectional charging functionality, the car “can also share the energy stored in your Sion, for example to power electronic devices or even charge another electric car.” Regarding that sharing, biSono will be accessible by smart device app: “With the goSono app, you can share your energy with others. If somebody requests access to the power outlet on your car, you can accept or reject that request using your app. Decide easily how much energy you’d like to share and at what price. Other app users will be able to see your offer and the exact location of your car. This function transforms your car into a mobile charging station, which you can even earn money with.” The car itself can be shared with others, via app, if desired.

Combine that with power drawn from conventional plug-in outlets and stored in the water-cooled, German-made battery to drive the Continental-built three-phase synchronous electric motor and front wheels through a one-speed transmission, and the small, five-seater will offer reasonable performance: 123 kW/163 hp, an 87-mph top speed, 1,653-pound tow rating, a driving range of around 155 miles, and the option of charging the battery to 80-percent capacity in 30 minutes. It’s said to be a basic, family friendly city-type car, with air conditioning, heated seats, and a 10-inch infotainment display among its few frills.

Interestingly, this car incorporates moss in its dashboard as part of its “breSono” natural air filtration system; the self-contained moss is claimed “to use electrostatic gravitation to filter up to 20 percent of particulate matter out of the air while offering positive effects for the temperature and humidity inside the Sion.”

Sono announced it had 5,000 pre-orders from around the world, and has found a good production partner in Sweden’s electric vehicle-focused NEVS. Formerly National Electric Vehicle Sweden, this primarily Chinese-owned firm purchased the assets of the bankrupt Swedish Automobile NV, the short-lived concern led by Dutch exotic Spyker Cars founder Victor Muller, and has been working towards building battery-powered versions of the GM Epsilon platform-based 9-3 model for the Chinese market.

Sono Motors plans for 260,000 of its vehicles to be built in Trollhättan in the next eight years, with an estimated 43,000 built each year in two-shift operations. The Saab Cars/NEVS factory will use 100-percent renewable energy to make these solar-electric vehicles.

“In NEVS, we found the perfect partner for us,” says Thomas Hausch, Chief Operating Officer of Sono Motors. “Together, we share a vision of intelligent and resource-conserving mobility. We also value our partner’s specific expertise based on their many years of experience in traditional automobile development and production, in combination with proven expertise in the area of electromobility.”

Team NEVS and team Sono Motors in Trollhättan. From left to right: Freddy Ploj (acting VP Manufacturing, NEVS), Laurin Hahn (CEO and founder, Sono Motors), Stefan Tilk (president and CEO, NEVS), Kai Johan Jiang (founder and chairman, NEVS), Morgan Fransson (acting COO and VP manufacturing, NEVS), Jona Christians (CEO and founder, Sono Motors), Ola Einarsson (VP purchasing and NIS, NEVS), Thomas Hausch (COO, Sono Motors)

The one-color/specification variant of this car is promised to cost 25,500 Euros (currently $28,676) upon launch in Europe, and Sono Motors plans to develop other models based on the Sion’s battery platform.

Would you drive a solar-powered battery electric vehicle?