The thought for Sono Motors, the corporate that desires to energy each electrical automobile utilizing solar energy, began 9 years in the past in a Munich basement when two entrepreneurial 18-year-olds beginning spitballing options to society’s dependence on fossil fuels. Jona Christians and Laurin Hahn, Sono Motors’ co-founders, weren’t that into automobiles, however they acknowledged how a lot transportation contributes to the burning of fossil fuels and thought that may be an excellent place to start out.
“We got here up with a imaginative and prescient to combine photo voltaic on each automobile and thought, Okay, what do we’d like for that?” Hahn instructed FiratNews.
They began on the development of a photo voltaic electrical automobile pre-prototype to show that renewable energies can assist resolve the transportation emissions downside, and by 2015, that they had a working mannequin. The next 12 months, Christians and Hahn introduced on inventive director Navina Pernsteiner to co-found the enterprise and set up Sono Motors as an organization and model.
On Wednesday, Sono Group, the guardian firm to Sono Motors, went public. It opened for buying and selling on the Nasdaq at $20.06 after the IPO was initially priced at $15, however shares hit a excessive of $38.74 earlier than the market closed.
The corporate’s path to market is twofold. It has secured 16,000 preorders of the Sion, the corporate’s first photo voltaic electrical automobile, at a mean down fee of $3,000. The compact, five-door, family-friendly hatchback, which is able to value $28,700, ought to make it to shoppers by the primary half of 2023. Sono can be working with corporations to combine its photo voltaic applied sciences into different automobiles. At first of this 12 months, Sono introduced that it might license its photo voltaic physique panel know-how to different corporations and named electrical autonomous shuttle firm EasyMile as its first buyer.
The Sion is predicted to have a variety of 190 miles utilizing a 54 kwH lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery, equipped by China’s BYD, that’s thought of to be extra sustainable as a result of it doesn’t have manganese, nickel or cobalt — valuable metals which have a excessive environmental and moral influence. Whereas the automobile may be charged by way of a wall field, Sono reckons the solar, which drip feeds power into the battery every time it’s shining, can deal with most of your every day commute.
“In Germany, for instance, the typical commuting vary is 10 miles per day,” Christians instructed FiratNews. “And with our distinctive know-how we are able to cowl per week 112 kilometers (~70 miles) on common simply by photo voltaic, and that covers a whole lot of the every day commute so that you don’t must recharge the automobile so usually. We have now 4 occasions extra vary in our automobile in comparison with different electrical automobiles with the identical battery dimension however with out photo voltaic integration. And that’s why we see this know-how [having] such an incredible potential to carry EVs [to] the plenty.”
The aluminum body is roofed in photo voltaic panels which might be composed of over 248 built-in cells, in response to the corporate, and the automobile shall be outfitted with onboard bidirectional charging, which might permit a client to make use of power saved within the battery to energy their houses or different digital units by way of the wall field. This function, together with ride-sharing and car-sharing, shall be enabled by the Sono app, which additionally acts as a digital key.
Many of the preorders for the automobile have come from Europe, the place the market launch will happen. 90% of these orders come from Germany or “German-speaking international locations” and the remaining 10% comes from international locations just like the Netherlands, Spain, France, Italy and Sweden, the place the automobiles shall be manufactured. Sono has partnered with Nationwide Electrical Automobile Sweden (NEVS) to provide the automobiles in its former Saab manufacturing unit. Christians says the manufacturing unit ought to have capability for 43,000 automobiles per 12 months, with roughly 260,000 automobiles to be produced over seven years.
“One base” automobile platform
Like many different automakers (GM, Arrival), Sono is creating a “one base” automobile platform that it hopes to construct future fashions on high of. The Sion is the primary, however the firm can be trying into producing a crossover passenger automobile and a cargo van for last-mile supply.
“We intend to make use of modular programs within the Sion, together with the powertrain, chassis, thermal unit and sure electronics,” reads Sono’s submitting with the Securities and Alternate Fee. “These modular programs will also be used for different automobile sorts with none, or solely minor, modification.”
Photo voltaic know-how integration and licensing
Sono’s photo voltaic know-how has been engineered to allow each integration into different automobiles, in addition to licensing for a variety of car architectures, like buses, vans and last-mile automobiles. The corporate says it has already shipped pre-production samples to prospects and has signed over 10 letters of intent and business contracts to discover strategic use circumstances.
“The transport and logistics industries particularly are very centered on whole value of possession, the place our photo voltaic integration can scale back operating value considerably,” reads the SEC submitting. “We have now a number of patents granted or throughout the submitting course of defending our proprietary know-how. Moreover, now we have as much as 4 years of superior improvement forward of who we consider to be our related opponents because of the patents, the testing of numerous completely different polymer supplies and the a number of related elements for full photo voltaic integration, equivalent to energy electronics, particularly the MCU.”
The MCU is Sono’s “most energy level tracker central unit,” which the corporate says solves the problem of uneven daylight publicity attributable to photo voltaic cells being mounted on completely different elements of the outside.
Sono additionally thinks over half of the automobiles offered in 2030 shall be appropriate for photo voltaic retrofitting, together with a 3rd which might be appropriate for photo voltaic integration. Photo voltaic manufacturing costs have gone down and effectivity of photo voltaic cells has elevated in recent times, which may have an effect on the ranges of EVs.
“Moreover, the steep enhance in electrical automobile gross sales and the comparatively slower enhance in charging stations will create a bottleneck for the adoption of electrical automobiles on a bigger scale,” the corporate wrote in its submitting. “We consider that even throughout the subsequent few years, individuals dwelling in residences with out non-public entry to charging shall be reluctant to purchase electrical automobiles attributable to uncertainty they’ll be capable of discover related charging choices.”
Can Sono ship?
Outsourcing manufacturing to NEVS is one in all Sono’s self-described “key differentiators” in its technique to provide the automobile effectively and in a means that’s scalable. The others are doing solely B2C gross sales, thus eliminating brick and mortar shops; no want for metal stamping due to the aluminum house body; and no paint job due to the photo voltaic panels. However NEVS is a difficult one to depend on. The corporate is owned by the Chinese language agency Evergrande, an organization that has $88 billion in excellent debt and is threatening a world monetary disaster.
“NEVS has been our manufacturing accomplice since 2019 and now we have been in shut change ever since and presently stay so,” stated Christians. “The manufacturing of the Sion is presently not affected by the restructuring. Facility preparations for pre-series manufacturing, deliberate in 2022, and Sion collection manufacturing, deliberate for the primary half of 2023, are operating in response to plan.”
Sono Motors is engaged on some backup plans, simply in case. Plan A continues to be to fabricate the Sion at NEVS, however the firm is exploring various situations and choices, together with using obtainable capacities of different European contract producers, in response to Christians.
That stated, NEVS is on the lookout for a brand new proprietor, so possibly it’ll be alright for Sono in the long run, however the startup most likely can’t afford manufacturing delays. In 2018, Sono had 7,000 preorders that have been meant to make it to prospects by 2019. These orders have been postponed till 2021. If Sono doesn’t begin delivering and scaling quickly, it’ll face extra than simply repute points.
At $3,000 per preorder, Sono has about $48 million within the financial institution. However that alone gained’t be capable of get the Sion to manufacturing, and Sono is already hurting for money. Throughout the first half of the 12 months, the corporate misplaced about $29 million, in response to the SEC submitting, with internet losses leading to an accrued deficit of $123 million. The corporate stated it might “proceed to incur losses and rely upon exterior financing within the foreseeable future at the very least till we start materials deliveries of the Sion and the time once we considerably scale our operations, together with the monetization of our photo voltaic know-how.”
Fortunately, this IPO gave the corporate a pleasant cushion to get its Sion to manufacturing. The corporate raised $150 million by going public, cash that shall be used to develop the Sion with a deal with the subsequent prototype technology created from serial elements, in response to the corporate.