Solar Powered Cars

Could a solar powered car make electric affordable?

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Sono Motor’s electric Sion could launch in 2019. Will the solar powered compact make expensive refuelling bills and range anxiety a thing of the past? And could it be the affordable electric car that breaks open the market?

With its solar cells integrated into the bodywork, the Sion has a quirky style all its own. But those 330 cells ranged across the roof, door panels and bonnet could provide a range of up to 250km on a single charge.

Munich-based Sono Motors is currently tweaking its solar charging system and is hoping to get its first solar powered car to market as soon as 2019. The Sion can also be charged conventionally and even from other electric cars.

Founded in 2016, this German start-up already has 6,000 orders on the books for its two models, the Urban and the Extender.

Urban regeneration

Designed to appeal to the compact city car market, each model will be able to regenerate around 30km of range from its solar panels as you drive each day. The Urban costs €12,000 and has a range of 120km. The slightly more expensive Extender at €16,000 more than doubles that range with 250km.

Built from rust proof polycarbonate, the solar cells cover 7.5 sq m of the Sion’s bodywork. How exactly solar energy is collected and released is not yet known.

As long as it’s black

The unusual styling of the Sion might not be to everyone’s taste – think Citroen Cactus – and if you don’t want to be aware of the solar cells then you’re realistically looking at buying in black. Inside the quirkiness continues, with moss acting as an air purifier and filter during charging.

But that doesn’t mean this solar powered marvel shuns conventional luxury. There’s a full infotainment panel that connects to your phone, plus heated seats and air conditioning. The car will have bi-directional charging meaning you can use it to power your heating and cooking when camping, for example.

Question marks remain over the effectiveness of the solar panels, and the main power boost for the Sion looks likely to come from a conventional battery pack. This will be available for rent or to buy at a single up-front cost of €4,000.

There have been solar powered cars before, but never mass produced for the consumer market. If Sono Motors can pull it off, the Sion might be just the boost the electric car market needs to go mainstream.

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