New Energy Vehicles

04 Nov 2022

German Tech Firm to Launch $25,000 Solar Car Next Year

04 Nov 2022  by   
First, there were electric vehicles (EVs), and then there were hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs), could the next innovation be solar-powered vehicles? According to one German company, solar cars are just around the corner with a release date set for 2023. While powering a car with the sun has long been talked about, Sono Motors appears to be the nearest to making this dream a reality, and at an affordable price.


German automotive firm Sono Motors expects to release its first commercially available solar-powered EV, the Sion, in Europe in mid-2023. The car is also set to tour the U.S. to establish a potential market for the vehicle in North America. The Sion will be priced at $25,000, making it significantly more affordable than many EVs. It requires 465 integrated solar half-cells on its exterior to provide its power and it is expected to run for 70 miles a week on solar power alone. The new solar car is fitted with a lithium iron phosphate battery for longer journeys, giving it a 190-mile range, with the ability to charge it to 80 percent in 35 minutes using a fast-charging station.

Sono announced that it already has 42,000 reservations for the Sion in Europe, and it hopes to produce 257,000 of the model by the end of the decade. The automotive firm cut costs in manufacturing by offering only a black version of the car and will further reduce costs by following a direct online sales model. Further, it is fitted with an aluminium space frame instead of steel to cut costs and requires no paint due to its extensive solar panelling.

The solar panels used by Sono use a polymer-based solar technology that is still under development. CEO Laurin Hahn explains, ″We have several patents, over 30 patents on that… And it’s a big difference because all other companies who try to integrate solar are using mostly glass. Glass is heavy, slow in production and very cost expensive.” The car will also be fitted with a dashboard app that offers the driver information on the power status and when to charge. It will also have the ability to charge other electrical devices, even other EVs. Hahn believes that fitting EVs with solar panels will become the norm in the future, as it does not add a significant cost to the manufacturing process, and it can diversify the car’s renewable power sources.

But Sono is not the only company hoping to power vehicles with solar panels, as several companies around the world have released prototypes and concept cars boasting solar power capabilities. In June this year, Dutch startup Lightyear announced its Lightyear 0 EV, fitted with 5m2 of solar panels across its roof, bonnet, and boot for additional charging while driving. The car can be powered at a traditional EV charging station and receives additional power from the sun, with a range of up to 40 miles per day from solar power and a 388-mile range from a traditional charge. Lightyear expects a sale price for the car to be around $247,000, making it significantly less affordable than Sono’s offering.

The company stated, “Through Lightyear 0, we are offering a new future for motorists who want the freedom of mobility with the peace of mind of sustainable energy, and that future starts now.” It added, “After six years of research and development, design, engineering, prototyping, and testing, this premier solar car is slated to go into production this fall.”

In October, a student team TU/ecomotive from the Eindhoven University of Technology produced their Zem prototype, a car which cleans carbon from the air while driving. The vehicle is fitted with a carbon capture device that absorbs and stores more CO2 than it emits. It is also fitted with solar panels and an electric battery. The structure is made from 3D-printed recycled plastic and its interiors come from vegan leather made from pineapples. Louise de Laat, team manager of the project stated, “We have implemented so many technologies into one car to really show what it can all do together.” While this type of car technology is a long way off, the students demonstrate the potential for combining electric batteries, solar panels, and carbon capture technology to enhance the car’s performance as well as lessen its impact on the environment by not solely relying on lithium batteries.

While a solar-powered car model has yet to be released, there are bright hopes for the incorporation of solar technology into traditional EVs to boost their range and add more renewable energy charging capabilities. As we continue to see greater innovation in solar panel technology, there is optimism around the potential for using the energy from the sun to power vehicles, with commercial offerings likely not far off. 


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