Solar cells have gotten cheap enough to make solar cars practical. At least that's the business model of one electric-car startup in Europe.
Sono Motors plans to build a $25,000 electric car covered in solar cells that can provide up to 18 miles of range a day. The company plans to introduce it at the end of 2019.
Sono Sion solar charged electric car
A little shorter than a Chevy Bolt EV, the Sion will be made of polycarbonate plastic body panels over an aluminum space frame. It uses a 35-kwh battery, and Hahn claims a range of 155 miles.
Although the car will have a CCS fast-charge port, solar panels covering the roof and sides of the car provide up to 18 miles of travel a day in the summertime. In winter, the solar range could drop to as few as 3 miles a day.
Hahn says the car could make a good alternative for buyers who want an electric car but may live in an apartment or condominium where they don't have access to home charging and can't put solar panels on their roofs.
To save cost, the car won't be painted, but will come with glossy black polycarbonate body panels that Hahn says could be cheaper to replace after minor accident damage—even with their integrated solar panels—than painted steel panels on conventional cars.
The Sion will come with safety features such as automatic emergency braking to earn four-stars on the Euro NCAP safety tests, says Hahn, though other details about the safety package haven't been worked out.
Buyers can save money by buying the car without the 35-kwh battery, and leasing the battery from the company instead. The basic car will sell for $19,760, and the battery pack will add another $5,000, though the lease price of the battery hasn't been finalized.
Sono plans to take the car on a tour of 42 cities in 10 countries "soon," in an attempt to get 12,000 people to test-drive it.
The company said it had taken just over 3,800 deposits on the Sion as of mid-April. Built by a European contract manufacturer, it will go on sale in Europe and several other countries around the world, though not the U.S. initially. Sono hopes to sell at least 10,000 Sions a year.