EV powered by its roof, doors and trunk

German startup Sono Motors has launched an electric vehicle that powers itself by means of its integrated solar cells.
Published: Mon 31 Jul 2017

The new electric vehicle (EV), called Sion, not only draws power from the central electric grid, it also acquires power from the 330 solar cells which are integrated on its surface including the roof, doors, trunk lid and front bonnet. The new EV, called Sion, is also up-to-date in terms of connectivity and IT-supported usage models.

While the energy from the solar cells cannot fully power the four-seater at this stage, the solar cells do contribute to charging the batteries as long as there is sun. The cells have the ability to generate sufficient electricity to add an additional 30km per day and the battery can store enough electricity for a 250km trip.  

The Sion will cost €16.000 and buyers can choose to either buy the battery for an additional €4000 approximately or rent it.

More than just a car

Another unique feature of the electric system is that it can be used as a power source, providing up to 2.7kW (DC) through the standard plug or up to 7.6kW through an optional Type 2 connector. The bi-directionality of the electric system also enables the car to transmit electricity back to the grid.

Through its connectivity features and a Smartphone app (available for Android and iOS), the Sion can also be used for alternative usage models. The app, as well as the underlying cloud infrastructure, support power sharing and vehicle sharing.

Launched in 2016, Sono Motors's two founders raised €700.000 through crowdfunding and enabled them to design the EV. Meanwhile, the company succeeded in contracting automotive supplier Roding Autoteile GmbH as its prototype development partner.

Harnessing solar potential in EVs

There are other vehicle and battery companies that see the potential in EVs fitted with solar panels. However, these remain largely in the form of roof panels for now.   

According to Panasonic, the current panel attached to the roof of the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid (Prius Prime) has an output of “several tens of watts” which is used only for ventilating parked EVs and “auxiliary charging” of the standard 12V-lead-acid battery. This was the first commercially available, mass-produced passenger vehicle to feature an optional solar charging system.  The Prius Prime has a 40km range available on a fully charged battery before it has to draw fuel. Improvements in solar efficiency, combined with advanced designs have led to a higher output — some 180W, which is more than triple the output of the previous solar roof. As a result, this battery can charge the lithium-ion powertrain batteries, providing up to an additional 5.95km of range on a sunny day. While this may seem small, it is a large portion of the daily commute of many people, which could result in greater fuel efficiency overall.

Meanwhile, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced in November 2016 that the company was in the process of developing a solar roof option for the Model 3, Tesla’s long-range EV.

As solar panels and EVs drop in price and become even more energy efficient, the potential range boost from a solar roof is likely to grow. With more startups like Sono Motors entering the EV market, panel developments are highly likely.

Related Webinar