There was a time when I was frustrated by the auto industry’s lack of interest in creating electric cars. Then upstart Tesla Motors showed me the change didn’t have to come from within the industry. Tesla had an innovative model, knowing they were up against giants.
The plan was essentially to build an expensive electric car to show people that an electric car could be awesome. Then, that money from the more expensive models could create affordable electric cars. So far that plan is working, but the “affordable” Model 3 is still priced at $35,000 and up.
As relatively affordable as that is, it still prices some people out of the market.
But that’s the business. Building a car company is expensive. However, an innovative group of friends in Munich, Germany created a new electric car. Sono Motors is using Crowdfunding to get things off the ground – their car is called Sion (not Scion). They are taking a page from the over 400,000 pre-orders of the Tesla Model 3, which raised $400 million in a week to fund production. With the Sion, the founders are asking for just over $100 in a non-binding deposit to reserve the car. This funding, which has raised over $200,000 out of the gate, will allow them to begin production of the car.
The exterior of the Sion is covered with solar panels. About 8 square yards of the outer walls are made up of solar cells, protected by a polycarbonate cover. The polycarbonate lets in the light, weighs less than glass, is shatterproof, and virtually unbreakable. This allows the car to harness free energy from the sun by simply being outside. It can run about 20 miles on pure solar power.
The Sion also has a battery that can be charged by solar power or plug-in electricity. The Extender is approximately $18,000 and runs about 150 miles on a full charge. The Urban is a commuter car with about half the range, but costs a mere $12,000.
BreSono is an air filtration system that uses moss integrated into the vents, watered through the moisture in the air. It provides additional sound proofing and requires virtually no maintenance. It also received high marks for safety. And because moss is alive and self-regenerating, there would be no filter replacement expense.
With bidirectional charging, the Sion can be a battery or charging station for your cell phone or other electronic devices. This can provide a versatile, electric workstation for power tools, laptops, or camping equipment with up to 2 kilowatts of electricity.
The Sion has a unique maintenance setup called reSono. What this does is allow the cars to be fixed with easy to use parts, ordered online and delivered to owners. This keeps repair costs inexpensive and there are video tutorials and manuals to guide owners as they make repairs. But they anticipate independent shops will support maintenance worldwide, so even though repairs will be easy, it won’t be necessary for you to do it yourself.
Unlike the major car companies who want more electric models in the future, the Sion will be available for test drives in early 2017. To what scale this car will be created is yet to be determined, but we’ve seen innovative companies like Apple, Google, HP, and Dell – and look at them now. No matter how successful Sono Motors becomes, they provide an excellent example for other car manufacturers to follow.
Jerry Mooney is a Language and Communications Professor at the College of Idaho and the author of History Yoghurt & the Moon. Follow him on Twitter: @JerryMooney