The solar mobility solutions provider Sono Group N.V. (Sono Motors) this week announced that it decided to pivot its business model to exclusively retrofitting and integrating its solar technology onto third party vehicles, and to terminate its Sion passenger car program, effective today. The company’s solar solutions, including hardware such as power electronics and software, are already in application today, with 23 B2B customers across Europe, Asia, and the United States piloting Sono Motors’ integrated solar technology on a variety of vehicles, including third-party OEM cars, buses, refrigerated vehicles, and recreational vehicles.
Fleet operators can benefit from integrating Sono Motors’ technology to save fuel, costs, and CO2, thereby contributing to the fight against climate change through a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The company said termination of the Sion program reflects a decision to focus on a capital-light business model – an estimated 90% of the funding needs for 2023 were generated by the Sion program – in light of depressed capital market conditions. Given the resource-intensive nature of the Sion program, including personnel requirements, the company is now implementing a significant cost reduction program.
“This pivot marks a significant step in Sono Motors’ business development,” said Laurin Hahn, co-founder and CEO of Sono Motors. “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. 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 is currently working as a development-partner and supplier with companies across 10 countries in Europe, Asia and the United States. Customers include Mitsubishi Europe, CHEREAU, and two Volkswagen subsidiaries – Scania and MAN Truck & Bus. Going forward, Sono Motors intends to focus specifically on buses and third-party OEM cars. The company says it will now scale up its technology, starting with the introduction of the next generation of its mass-market-ready retrofit solution for cleaner public transportation — the “Solar Bus Kit” — planned for the second quarter of 2023. Talks with potential investors will now exclusively focus on solar technology.
The potential of Sono Motors’ technology has been validated not only by the Company’s commercial partnerships, but also by the European Union. In January 2023, the Company secured €1.46 million in funding from the EU Commission’s European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (‘CINEA’) to advance the development of the Company’s proprietary solar technology (‘SEAMLESS-PV’ project). Sono Motors has also announced that it now has 52 patents filed or granted, 42 of which are for the Company’s proprietary solar technology, a significant increase from 10 patents filed or granted at the time of the Company’s IPO in November 2021. The number of patents filed or granted include patents relating to the same invention filed in different jurisdictions.
The success of the Sion’s 18-vehicle series-validation program was, in the Company’s view, proof that the concept of a solar electric vehicle (SEV) works. Just before entering pre-series production, the Sion was on a trajectory to become a disruptor in the automotive solar technology industry. In terms of Sion reservations with deposits made before the #savesion campaign, the company announced a payback plan to reimburse in various installments including a bonus over the next two years. Although Sono Motors has terminated the Sion program, the company says it will continue to utilize patented technology developed in its ongoing integration and retrofit business. On top, Sono Motors intends to sell its Sion program.
In light of the Company’s decision to terminate the Sion program, the company plans the redundancy of approximately 300 employees. In this context, Thomas Hausch has decided to step down from his role as COO but will support the company’s transition. “Without Thomas’ professional dedication and outstanding character our Sion program would have not made it this far. We are so thankful for his past and future championing of our mission,” said Laurin Hahn.