On 4th March 2019, Sono Motors, a German electric vehicle start-up, unveiled an updated production design of the Sion, an electric car with full-surface integrated solar cells. These solar cells are embedded in hard-wearing and resilient polymer, which also contribute to the vehicle’s design aesthetic. The Sion is aimed at the European market. Sono Motors started registering pre-orders for Sion and has successfully recorded registrations for more than 9,000 units. The company declared that it would initiate the production of Sion in Sweden by mid-2020.
MarketsandMarkets™ View Point:
Nilesh Rana – Team Lead : Automotive & Transportation Research at MarketsandMarkets™, shares his point of view as mentioned below:
According to MarketsandMarkets™ analysis, Sono Motors can potentially make a notable impact in the market. Sono Motors has plans to produce 260,000 vehicles over an eight-year production period. The company plans to make 43,000 cars per year in two-shift operations once the initial manufacturing ramp-up is completed. This is a slightly slower pace, for instance, compared with Tesla’s 1,000 Model S vehicles per week. However, Sion can make an impact in the coming years with its unique 330 integrated solar cells on its roof, sides, and rear. If we assume that a car commutes 22 km per day on an average, then Sion wouldn’t need to be plugged in daily because these solar panels will give an added mileage of up to 30 km. The car also features a lichen air-purifying system. It is also to be noted that Sono is partnering with technology giants such as Continental for Sion’s electric drive system and ElringKlinger for battery development and production.
The primary source of energy for a solar electric vehicle is the Sun. Such vehicles will have to depend on large batteries for energy storage. Solar vehicle is the future of the automotive industry and is a cost-effective option for emission-free daily commute. The basic power transmission elements in solar vehicles are solar panels, battery, and motor. The PV panels convert solar energy into electrical energy, which is then fed to the battery. The battery further offers electrical energy to the DC motor, which, in turn, passes the energy to the shaft connected to the rear wheel of the vehicle.
The increasingly stringent environmental regulations mandated by the governments worldwide and the consequent demand for emission-free transportation have fuelled the growth of solar vehicles market globally. High dependence on fossil fuels, depleting oil reserves, and global warming concerns have called attention towards the importance of solar energy in the automotive industry. Increasing R&D activities to enhance the efficiency of EV are also expected to boost the growth of the solar vehicle market from 2022 to 2030.
Impact on Electric Battery:
High capacity batteries are needed to store the energy and to convert it to the desired form for the efficient operation of solar vehicles.
Lithium-ion batteries are a standard integral component of modern solar electric vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries are currently used in a majority of BEVs and PHEVs, and it is likely that this type of batteries will lead the battery market scene throughout the next decade.
However, the solid-state battery is the future of the solar vehicle market. Anticipating the tremendous growth of solar vehicles in coming years, many major companies are developing solid-state batteries to overcome the drawbacks of lead-acid, lead carbon, and lithium-ion batteries. It is an emerging technology, and the manufacturers of solid-state batteries are planning to commercialize the technology by 2020.
Impact on Competitors:
Sono Motors is not the first company to put solar panels on a car. One model of the Toyota Prius Prime, available only in Japan, also has solar roof panels that feed power to the battery. Audi has also been working on integrating thin-film solar cells into panoramic glass roofs. However, until now, other companies have opted to use solar panels for supplemental purposes only, such as to run an auxiliary climate-control fan during hot summer days. But, Sono Motor’s Sion would be the first car in the mass market to use solar energy to power the drivetrain. The company promises a range of 250 kilometres (155 miles) on a fully-charged battery and claims that the solar panels will give the car an added boost of up to 30 km. The major market players include Sono Motors (Germany), Volkswagen (Germany), Toyota (Japan), Ford (US), Mahindra (India), Nissan (Japan) and Cruise Car (US) who are developing or have already developed solar electric vehicles.
The introduction of solar and electric vehicles has provided a suitable alternative for fossil fuel cars. Also, the mass production of electric vehicles by OEMs has encouraged the rapid development of solar panels that can be integrated in the vehicles. However, several challenges associated with solar-powered vehicles, such as a time-consuming charging system and an insecure design, discourage the adoption of solar vehicles.