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Sono Motors, a solar electric-vehicle manufacturer in Germany, has terminated its Sion passenger car development program, as it has failed to secure enough funding to support pre-series production. It says it will now focus exclusively on retrofitting and integrating its patented solar technology into third-party vehicles.
Sono Motors has decided to terminate the development of Sion solar electric vehicles, so it can focus on a capital-light, “solar-only business.” The Munich-based company, which went public in November 2021, said on Friday that it is laying off 300 employees due to the change in its business model. COO Thomas Hausch is also stepping down from his role.
The company’s decision to end the Sion program appears to be driven by the high cost of its business plan, coupled with “depressed capital market conditions.” Sono Motors said an estimated 90% of its funding needs for 2023 were dedicated to the solar car program.
Sono Motors first publicly presented its plans for the Sion solar electric car in 2017. The Sion was marketed as the world’s first affordable solar EV, with a price tag of about €25,000 ($26,375).
Sion’s outer shell featured 456 monocrystalline solar half cells to extend the time between charges and enable self-sufficiency on short journeys. Its 54 kWh lithium-iron phosphate (LFP) battery would allow for a maximum charging capacity of up to 75 kW (DC) and 11 kW (AC). The vehicle also had an 11 kW, on-board bidirectional charger.
However, pre-series production of the Sion remained beyond reach, as Sono Motors has repeatedly failed to secure enough funding. In December, it launched the #savesion campaign to offer customers €3,000 discounts in exchange for advance payments. It aimed to secure €100 million.
Sono’s plan was to start production of the Sion car in Finland in the second half of 2023. However, “given the resource-intensive nature of the Sion program, including personnel requirements, the company is now implementing a significant cost reduction program,” it said in a statement.
“It was a difficult decision and despite more than 45,000 reservations and pre-orders for the Sion, we were compelled to react to the ongoing financial market instability and streamline our business,” said Laurin Hahn, the CEO of Sono Motors.
The company said the success of its 18-vehicle series-validation program proved the viability of its solar electric vehicle concept. This is why it will continue to use its proprietary polymer-based vehicle-integrated solar technology, but only by retrofitting and integrating the tech into third-party vehicles.
It also plans to sell its Sion program. In addition to the passenger car program, it will offer PV solutions for buses, e-vans, and refrigerated vehicles. It will launch its Solar Bus Kit retrofit solution in the second half of 2023, the company said on Friday.
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