MAN partners with Sono Motors to test PV integration into electric van
Ahead of scheduled production of its PV-packing battery electric family car next year, German startup Sono Motors is joining forces with MAN Truck & Bus to trial integrating solar cells into an electric panel van.
MAN launched an electric version of its diesel-powered high-roof cargo hauler back in 2018. The rear-drive eTGE van has a 10.3 m3 (364 ft3) loading capacity in back or up to 950 kg (over 2,000 lb) and can get to a top speed of 90 km/h (56 mph) thanks to a 100-kW motor that produces 290 Nm (214 lb.ft) of torque. Its 35.8-kWh Li-ion battery is reported capable of between 110 and 115 km (around 70 miles) of per-charge WLTP range, which MAN notes is based on driving at mostly high speeds.
The company also says that, depending on the annual mileage, the electric panel van could be more economical to run than its equivalent diesel sibling, and that it could pay for itself in about four years.
And it's this vehicle that will serve as the testbed for the Sono Solar technology, in standard configuration, a combi version featuring an on-roof aircon system and another with a refrigeration system. The partnership will examine whether the polymer-based embedded solar cells on the roof and side panels can either tack on additional range to the setup or power auxiliary systems such as the aircon.
The 248 photovoltaic panels integrated into the Sion family car, which Sono Motors estimates will go into production next year, have the potential to add 34 km (21 miles) of range per day in ideal sunbathing conditions. And all in, the car's battery pack is reported good for up to 255 km (158.5 miles) on the WLTP cycle.
How much extra range the solar-cell setup will give the eTGE panel van and aircon/refrigeration variants remains to be seen, but the larger surface area available could make the proposition tempting for fleet operators looking to reduce costs for inner-city package delivery.
"It is a great opportunity for Sono Motors to team up with such a respected industry partner as MAN and to work together for a more sustainable future," said Jona Christians, co-founder and CEO of Sono Motors.
MAN's Dennis Affeld added, "We will pool our joint know-how and expertise to test various prototypes with vehicle-integrated photovoltaic technology. The aim is to find out how much energy can be gained from PV technology over the year. Using this insight, we can then assess whether the technology pays off for our customers and at the same time helps to protect the environment."