Why Sono Has Dropped Its Solar Car Project

2023 sono sion prototype
Why Sono Has Dropped Its Solar Car Projectsono
  • Sono Motors drops its Sion solar car program, just as the solar-powered hatch was slated for production later this year.

  • The company plans to focus on its commercial solar power offerings, and hopes to sell the Sion program to another automaker.

  • The Sion targeted a starting price of $25,000 and would have featured a composite exterior with integrated solar cells.

Just a few months after Sono brought its planned $25,000 solar-powered Sion crossover to the US, ahead of the planned start of production and sales in 24 European countries in the second half of 2023, the company has abruptly revealed that it is dropping production plans entirely.

The German startup, founded in 2016, had touted a crossover hatch with a solar panel skin promised to add 70 miles per week to the car's range while offering a rather spartan interior. The goal was to offer a low starting price, with the company already securing 20,000 private reservations and 22,000 pre-orders from fleet operators by last fall, ahead of the planned start of production in Finland.

Now the project has been canceled.

Instead, Sono plans to focus on the other part of its business, which is building solar panels for commercial customers. The company said its decision to reduce operating costs favored a shift away from the Sion project, also citing "depressed capital market conditions" and the significant personnel requirements the project demanded.

"Even though we had to terminate our original passion project, the Sion program, shifting our entire focus to business-to-business solar solutions provides us with an opportunity to continue to create innovative products in the solar space," said Laurin Hahn, co-founder and CEO of Sono Motors. "It was a difficult decision and despite more than 45,000 reservations and pre-orders for the Sion, we were compelled to react to the ongoing financial market instability and streamline our business."

Sono Motors also said the Sion project would have been resource intensive, which suggests rapidly growing material and component costs. The company plans to lay off some 300 employees as part of a cost reduction program.

However, Sono Motors said the Sion project could still be sold to another automaker.

Perhaps more valuable than the Sion's design is the underlying technology—something that could indeed interest other automakers—with the company having secured 30 patents for the EV's honeycombed injection-molded polymer plastic body. But possible future production probably won't happen in Finland even if some automaker picks up the project for revival, just due to the labor costs in the country.

Incidentally, the shelving of the Sion project makes Sono the second solar EV startup to cancel production plans in Finland just this year. In late January EV startup Lightyear abruptly ended its solar-skinned sedan production about a month after assembly began by Valmet Automotive in the country, citing a shifting focus to its second, more affordable solar EV project planned for 2025.

Do solar EVs have a future, or is this technology too obscure to interest current EV shoppers? Let us know in the comments below.