Credit: Sono Motors GmbH
- Sono Group N.V. became public in 2021 (Nasdaq: SEV), parent company of Sono Motors
- 2 main businesses are solar technology and licensing, and Sion solar car
- Finland’s Valmet Automotive to produce Sion
- Launched a campaign to secure 3,500 additional Sion reservations (register here)
- Even if Sion campaign goal not met, solar licensing business already generating revenue
- Licensing to buses, trucks and trailers includes partners Chereau, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kögel and Wingliner
- 34 patents granted or filed
- Strong C-suite includes several alumni of Mercedes Benz and BMW
Imagine a commute where you didn’t have to charge or fill up your car for eight weeks. Because photovoltaic (PV) modules are 80% cheaper than they were in 2010, that dream is now possible. And with oil and electricity prices on the rise, that dream now seems more necessary than ever.
Meet Sono Group N.V. (Nasdaq: SEV), which is developing an electric car called Sion with proprietary integrated solar panels to power its batteries under the Sono Motors brand. It also generates revenue by licensing its solar technology to companies that use buses, trucks and trailers and is available in 10 countries.
Sono, founded in 2016 in Munich, is developing the fully-electric vehicle with solar cells integrated into the body. The company, which employs 420 people, is in the testing and series-validation program of Sion, and remains on a fast track to pre-series production, planned in 2024.
These vehicles also have regular, lithium-based batteries that can be charged using electricity from the grid, so for longer drives these cars essentially function like a standard EV. But for commuters and other short-distance drivers, the majority of their miles could be fueled almost entirely from the sun, free of charge.
The average daily commuter drive is about 10 miles. The Sion needs a single charge to drive 250 miles, while other vehicles with the same battery size and the same consumption need at least four charges. Sion is also a power bank on wheels that you can hook up to your home.
And with states like California requiring all vehicles to be electric by 2035, there are some major tailwinds for climate friendly mobility.
The Sion comes in one standard version, like Ford’s Model T from a century ago, enabling the company to keep costs down. Sono is taking an asset-light approach, relying on third-party production and using off-the-shelf components from suppliers.
Sono signed a long-term Europe-wide partnership with Bosch Automotive for servicing and repairing the Sion, giving it access to over 10,000 workshops in Europe as one of the world’s largest grouping of repair-locations.
Looking much further afield, there are plenty of locations around the world where sunshine is plentiful but fuel and electricity remain scares. Vast swaths of Africa and Southeast Asia, for instance, could eventually find an elegant and affordable public transportation solution that incorporates Sono’s technology.
The Sion is powered by a 54 kWh LFP battery pack and features 456 solar half-cells that are integrated into its bodywork. The automaker says that these can add between 70-152 miles of range per week, requiring its owners to charge less frequently than other EVs, and saving them money.
Sono has an agreement with Finnish contract vehicle manufacturer Valmet Automotive for 257,000 cars over seven years, scheduled to begin production in the second half of this year. It also has a purchase order signed with one of the world’s largest car manufacturers and more may want to license the technology in the near future. The cost of a Sion is around $30,000, including sales tax.
While competitors like Toyota, Hyundai and Fisker have tried solar panel glass roofs, Sono covers the vehicle in polymer solar panels, which weigh less and are easier to produce quickly and cheaply.
It also has a unique crowd-source based approach to marketing: transparency. Usually vehicles are a secret until the very end of production. Sono has decided to crowdsource ideas, comments, design and now — with its campaign to secure 3,500 Sion more reservations—money.
Currently, there are over 21,000 Sion reservation holders, which represents some EUR 465 million ($489 million) in potential revenue, as well as roughly 22,000 B2B pre-orders worth almost EUR 600 million.
“They are telling us to not build the car, to restructure the company, and to lay off 70 percent of our people,” the company said on its website. “To refund the Community and to disregard the Sion and our reservation holders. But, for us, this simply can’t be an option. Not without giving our Community the chance to make a move. That’s why we kicked-off this campaign.”
If it does not achieve its fundraising goal, Sono says that all of the reservations made as part of this drive will be refunded. The company will then be forced to shut down the EV project, and focus instead on its B2B solar panel business.
Credit: Sono Motors GmbH
That would by no means be the end of the road for Sono because the solar licensing business is already driving revenue and is less capital intensive. Sono’s Solar Bus Kit is a scalable solar retrofit for diesel buses. The program has a payback time of 3-4 years, and savings of up to 1,500 liters of diesel. Sono has a LOI in place to outsource installation, servicing and logistics throughout Europe to a service partner.
It has partnerships with Chereau, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kögel and Wingliner for a range of technology and solutions for its three key industries – buses, electric transporters and refrigerated vehicles.
The management team is also outstanding: Sono Motors’ CEOs and co-founders, Jona Christians and Laurin Hahn are joined by multiple C-suite executives with Mercedes Benz and BMW pedigrees.
Last but not least, investors who buy Sono shares now get an outstanding deal. On back off the napkin math, a delivery of 43,000 Sions by 2025 would represent about $1 billion in revenue – nearly 20x the company’s current enterprise value. Meanwhile the company has about EUR 55 million in liquidity as of its last disclosure in December, enough to keep Sono’s lean machine running for quite some time.
Bottom line: with a first mover advantage, other original equipment manufacturers are already looking at adding a solar option to their cars. Sono is in the catbird seat no matter what happens.