German solar electric vehicle manufacturer Sono Motors is to team up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) to test and certify the company’s technology for integrating solar cells into the bodywork of electric vehicles (EVs).
Sono Motors unveiled images of its Sion EV all the way back in March of 2019, building on its initial prototypes which were first revealed even further back, in 2017. The Sion’s main drawcard is the promise of solar PV panels built directly into the body of the car, allowing it to boost its range through its own solar generation.
Unsurprisingly popular, Sono Motors raised €53 million ($A85 million) earlier this year through a crowdfunding campaign, exceeding its original target of €50 million, thanks in large part to reservations made for the Sion.
On Thursday, Sono Motors announced the next major step in bringing the Sion to market, revealing that it was partnering with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) to test and certify the company’s solar technology.
Fraunhofer ISE will work with Sono Motors to test the company’s patented solar technology and bring it through to approval. Tests will focus primarily on developing evidence of the technology’s safety and reliability, while also expanding to identify other potential areas of application so as to further promote certification outside of its use in EVs.
Sono Motors’ solar technology consists of lightweight and highly efficient photovoltaic modules, a control unit integrated with a model for predicting the solar modules’ energy yield, and other system components necessary for the electric and mechanical integration of the solar technology into the bodywork of electric vehicles.
The company’s design aims are to seamlessly integrate the solar modules into the surface of the Sion’s body, and is expected to be able to provide an additional range of up to 34 kilometres per day.
“We have been working hard on developing our solar technology ever since Sono Motors was founded,” said Mathieu Baudrit, Head of Research and Development, Solar Integration, at Sono Motors.
“We are now in the final stages of having this one-of-a-kind technology approved. We are delighted to have the renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems join us at this crucial stage, with its expertise in the area of solar integration.”
“The integration of solar modules into vehicles is a key technology for the low-carbon mobility of the future,” added Dr. Harry Wirth, Division Director, Photovoltaics Modules and Power Plants at Fraunhofer ISE.
“Solar electricity increases a vehicle’s range and fewer charging stops mean lower electricity costs. We are delighted to be able to contribute our institute’s comprehensive expertise, ranging from the development and testing of solar modules to electronic applications to this joint project.”
Production of the Sion is expected to begin in 2022. Sono Motors’ original plan was to produce a total of 260,000 Sion’s ove ra period of eight years, utilising the former Saab plant in Trollhättan, Sweden. Pre-orders for the Sion currently require a down payment of at least €500 for a total purchase price of €25,500 ($A42,500).
According to the company’s website, pre-orders currently sit at over 12,300.
Sono Motors’ also made news in early September when it was awarded a European patent for its bidirectional charging system known as biSono which the company’s own newly developed charger, able to charge, store, and release electricity.
While bidirectional charging systems are not new, a possible integration with an EV which also boasts its own solar panels could be a significant game changer.
Instead of only generating the extra 34 kilometres of extra driving range, the Sion could be able to feed electricity back into the grid through a control unit, such as an app or the vehicle’s infotainment system. Specifically, excess power absorbed by the Sion’s battery could be made available to other devices or even other vehicles.
“Patenting our bidirectional charging system is another important milestone on our way to becoming a mobility service provider,” said Laurin Hahn, Co-Founder and CEO of Sono Motors, speaking in September.
“The technology allows us to enable intelligent power sharing, i.e. the sharing of stored energy via an app. The Sion can thus not only be charged via the power grid, but becomes part of the charging infrastructure itself.”