Automotive

Solar panels cut down on range anxiety in German compact EV

Solar panels cut down on range...
There are 7.5 sq.m of solar panels on the body
There are 7.5 sq.m of solar panels on the body
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A Sono prototype in the workshop
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A Sono prototype in the workshop
Sono says the Sion can be used an electric generator 
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Sono says the Sion can be used an electric generator 
The green in the dashboard is a special moss
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The green in the dashboard is a special moss
There's room for six inside 
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There's room for six inside 
Solar charging should help to cut down on range anxiety
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Solar charging should help to cut down on range anxiety
There are 7.5 sq.m of solar panels on the body
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There are 7.5 sq.m of solar panels on the body
The shape is similar to the one you'd find on a Prius or Honda Clarity
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The shape is similar to the one you'd find on a Prius or Honda Clarity
The Sono Sion on the move
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The Sono Sion on the move
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As electric power becomes more widespread, novel workarounds to minimize range anxiety are becoming more common. From fast charging to fuel cells, eking more mileage out of batteries will be crucial if electric cars are to win over devotees of gas and diesel. German company Sono Motors plans on using solar panels to solve the problem, with its compact Sion commuter.

The original Fisker Karma dipped its toe into the waters of solar charging, using a small panel in the roof to charge ancillary systems, and the new Karma Revero can draw around 1.5 mi (2.4 km) from the sun. But neither embraced the idea of solar charging like Sono, which has fitted mono-cystalline silicon cells to the roof, bonnet, boot and sides of the car. The company claims owners will get around 30 km (18.6 mi) of range from the sun over the course of an average day.

The solar cells are covered with an 8 mm (0.31 in) layer of polycarbonate, and total surface area is 7.5 square meters (80.7 square feet).

The green in the dashboard is a special moss
The green in the dashboard is a special moss

Sono says it's actually being conservative with the 30 km estimate. According to the company, it is technically possible that the car's 349 total cells, producing a peak 1,144 W at 22 percent efficiency, are enough to provide 65 km (40.4 mi) of range.

Although it might be technically possible, there are of course some rather obvious drawbacks to using solar panels to try to provide a meaningful range boost. For one, parking a car in the city means you're surrounded by buildings and shadows. You're also likely to be parked next to somebody else, which means their regular cars might block or steal your sunlight. So as noble as the concept is, we're not sure how effectively it translates to the real world.

The Sion can can be charged like a regular electric car. Urban models use a 14.4 kWh battery for a maximum range of 120 km (74 mi), and the more expensive Extender uses a 30 kWh battery for 250 km (155 mi) of silent running.

Both models can be charged to 80 percent in just half an hour, or topped up more slowly using a regular wall socket. The 50 kW motor can take the car up to 140 km/h (87 mph), which should be more than enough for most inner-city and suburban commuters.

The shape is similar to the one you'd find on a Prius or Honda Clarity
The shape is similar to the one you'd find on a Prius or Honda Clarity

When it's not being driven, the Sion doesn't need to just sit and do nothing. Instead, the battery can be used to power fridges and phones at campsites. According to Sono, the solar panels provide enough charge to mean running camp on the car's battery won't stop you from making it home.

Funky solar panels make the exterior of the car look a bit different, and the company uses moss - yes, moss – to do the same thing inside. According to Sono, this acts as a natural air filter, soaking up fine dust particles and regulating humidity. Meanwhile, a 10-inch touchscreen wirelessly mimics the driver's phone, handling climate control and infotainment.

Because there's no transmission tunnel running through the middle of car, there's room for a third central seat up front, making this a six-seat microbus.

The team at Sono Motors has surpassed its Indiegogo funding goal, and is now pushing to put the Sion into production. Should it see the light of day, the Urban is expected to cost around €12,000 (US$13,500), and the Extender will be worth around €16,000 ($18,000). All things being equal, deliveries will kick off in 2018 - not all that far away, considering there's no pictures of a working Sion in action yet, only renders.

You can check out the Sono pitch video below.

Source: Sono Motors via Autoblog

Sion – An Electric Car for Everyone | Sono Motors

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12 comments
swaan
So basically it is a kit car, yes?
olavn
It is meaningless to state the range solar power gives, as this is proportional to the charging time. The correct question is: How fast can the car crawl when it is only solar powered? (- with sunlight coming in the right and wrong direction, as well as in clouded weather.)
watersworm
so, 12000€, with 7,5 sq meters of solar panels, and even with a "tiny" 14 kW/h battery... Is it magic or bullshit ?
Adrian Pineda
The Saab EV1 from 1985 had solar panels on it's roof. Nobody followed this idea. Just saying.
voluntaryist
How about fold out PV panels to extend the charging capacity? Once again, no mention of the platform specifics, like weight & drag. Why do most BEV manufacturers leave these out? Is it to hide the fact they are not serious? Or is it they can't do what Aptera did? Dude! Where's my Aptera?
Calson
Odd how people who drive any car expect that retails and the government will provide them with a place to park their car and overlook the exhaust fumes and noise and oil stains that are involved. An EV has none of those offensive characteristics.
The concern about shade is rather silly. Try to find a parking space in any parking lot where there is shade. The shaded parking spaces in most areas are less than 3% of the total.
In urban areas the use of single user powered cars should be banned altogether as they currently consume more than half the city space and do so in as inefficient a manner as could be conceived. Half the very expensive real estate in large cities is used for auto movement and parking even as the utilization rate is less than 50% and this space resource is not even utilized much of the time.
jocco
Since up to half your battery power is used for climate control I would rather see the solar cells on a vehicle used for climate control .
Wouldn't it be nice to come out of work after 8 hours in the sun to a cool car to go home in. The hotter the sun got the more cooling you would get.
habakak
Pffft....will never happen. The tech is just not there yet (solar panels in terms of efficiency or cost and weight).
JohanJordaan
Just good to see someone working on something practical even if the price is optimistic. You can buy supercars and superbikes but presciously few practical everyday electric vehicles. These guys are pushing the envelope. One of these days it will be possible to give the planet a break. And the more people doing it the better.
RolandThiering
I would really like to try one of these out in a sunny climate like Scottsdale, Arizona as an experimental vehicle.