The Carmaker Putting Solar Panels on Its Electric Vehicles

A German startup aims to sell a self-charging electric car
covered in solar panels from 2022 after raising nearly $60 million
in a recent 50-day crowdfunding campaign.

Munich-based Sono Motors expects its €25,500 ($27,600)
electric car, the Sion, to benefit from a range extension of as
much as 20 miles per day in Germany, depending on the season and
weather, thanks to a solar charging system integrated into the body
of the car.

More than 13,000 customers have already pre-ordered the vehicle,
the company said. It expects the first cars to roll off the
assembly line of a former Saab factory in Trollhättan, Sweden, in
September 2021, with volume production at the start of 2022.

Sono’s €53.3 million community fundraising campaign should
allow the company to build its first prototypes and tool up its
production and testing facilities, said Ann-Kathrin Schroeder,
marketing director.

The company is looking to raise a further €205 million before
starting production, she said. Of this, around €70 million will
be in the form of debt capital from banks, subsidy providers and
private lenders.

The Sion will be powered by a 35-kilowatt-hour battery
containing 192 prismatic lithium-ion cells with a nickel, manganese
and cobalt ratio of 622.

Sono says the car will have a range of 255 kilometers (159
miles) on a single charge and the battery should take 30 minutes to
recharge up to 80 percent at a rapid charging station.

The Sion will include bidirectional charging technology so it
can be used as a mobile energy storage device, and will also
feature a novel moss-based dashboard air purifying system. But the
most innovative feature is the presence of 248 solar cells spread
across the outside of the car.

A rendering of the Sion’s moss-based dashboard air purifying
system. (Credit: Sono Motors)

Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this?

Sono plans to use solar panels instead of paint as a covering
for the Sion, embedding the cells in polymer rather than glass to
lighten the shell of the vehicle by 20 percent compared to standard
metal body parts.

The company’s viSono solar body panels are designed to deliver
up to 220 watts per square meter, compared to 180 watts for
standard PV. “This enables the Sion, through the power of the sun
alone, to generate an additional range of up to 5,800 kilometers
[3,600 miles] per year, completely emission-free and free of
charge,” said Schroeder.

In practice, the range extension will depend on local
conditions. Sono calculates the Sion could travel around an extra 2
miles a day in December, or 15 in July, in average Munich weather.
These ranges could drop to around 2 and 6 miles, respectively,
under cloudy conditions, or 6 and 21 in sunshine.

“This makes the car ideal for commuters, who do an average of
17 kilometers a day to get to work in Germany,” Schroeder said.
“Our goal is to cover many short trips with solar energy only. We
are convinced that solar integration can further support e-mobility
in achieving a breakthrough in the mass market.”

Tom Heggarty, a principal analyst in Wood Mackenzie’s energy
transition practice, was more circumspect about the concept. “I
can’t see that kind of solution ever being anything more than
very niche,” he said.

“Does the fact that you’re getting that panel for free
offset the additional cost of [integrating] the PV panels? I
don’t know.”

Sono is thought to be the first automotive manufacturer planning
a solar panel-coated car for mass production. However, solar panels
are already being used in motor transportation elsewhere.

In the Netherlands, for example, the coach company FlixBus this
month announced it had installed solar panels on a bus carrying
passengers from Dortmund in Germany to London in the U.K. The
panels feed on-board electronics rather than contributing to the
vehicle’s motive power.

Nevertheless, the company said the panels had helped cut diesel
consumption by 7 percent, equivalent to around 1.7 liters per 100
kilometers (62 miles).

“Based on the initial results, we will evaluate the extent to
which we amplify this pilot to more buses or even all buses in the
network,” commented Jesper Vis, managing director of FlixBus
Benelux, in
a press release
.

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
The Carmaker Putting Solar Panels on Its Electric Vehicles