Sono Motors aims to launch 32,000 solar EVs this decade

The news: German automotive startup Sono Motors announced an ambitious goal of putting 32,000 solar-powered electric vehicles on roads by 2030, per Electrek.

Are solar EVs a thing? Sono wants to use its proprietary solar panels to supplement EV range, saying that its panels add 70 to 150 miles of range weekly. Lightyear, another startup innovating in the solar EV space, plans a November release of its Lightyear 0.

  • Solar panels are used in conjunction with EV charging, so the panels work as a hybrid power source rather than a replacement for plugging in.
  • The solar panels are integrated into a vehicle’s bodywork in the roof, hood, and side panels for optimal solar exposure.
  • Sono has received 20,000 reservations for its Sion solar EV, a plug-in EV that has a 190-mile range.
  • Car subscription platform FINN has bought into the concept, reserving 12,600 units. The first 100 EVs are expected to reach Finn in 2024.
  • Aside from passenger SUVs, Sono is using its technology to power solar buses for public transportation. Applications can extend to service and delivery vehicles in the future. 

The opportunity: As far as renewable energy goes, it’s tough to beat what solar energy has to offer. 

  • Solar EVs have the potential to counter range anxiety experienced by electric car drivers by constantly storing enough reserve energy to get to charging stations.
  • There’s a potential for aftermarket solar roof, hood, and panel attachments that can be made to work with existing EVs for additional range. 
  • Solar panels are recyclable and can offset a portion of the environmental impact that EV batteries have. 
  • Stanford researchers have invented solar panels that can generate electricity at night, which could amplify power harvesting for solar EVs. 

What’s the catch? Aside from being a niche submarket of EVs, solar panels require a significant amount of energy to produce. In addition, solar panels are expensive, and weaving these into the shapes of car panels is complicated.

  • There’s also an unequal distribution of sunlight around the world, which makes relying on solar power risky in geographies that are cloudy, rainy, or that just don’t get enough sunlight. 
  • A lot of this technology is proprietary and is unlikely to gain much ground unless it’s developed under stricter regulations and standards that can benefit entire industries.

The bigger picture: Solar energy is a vital source of renewable energy and a natural fit for the global transition to EVs. Finding an effective and affordable way to harness it as a power source will help future EV adoption.

(Source: Sono Motors)

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Connectivity & Tech Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the technology industry. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.