The solar-powered car: a new future for EVs?

It may not look like much, said Greg Potts in Top Gear, but the Sono Motors Sion is something very special: a crowdfunded, solar-powered electric car that should be on our roads by 2022. Of course, the Sun can’t power it all the time – it’s still a plug-in electric vehicle (EV) – but its German makers say a mid-summer day in Munich should give it a pure solar range of about 21 miles. That is “impressive”. With a total plug-in range of 158 miles, it has a top speed of 87mph and goes from 0-62mph in under nine seconds. So is this the future of EVs?

“We’ve seen solar-powered cars before,” said Andrew English in The Daily Telegraph. But only “featherweight” ones that “trundle across the Australian desert” in the World Solar Challenge. The Sion is a real-world, practical car. And solar panels are not its only green innovation. The car (which only comes in black) is impregnated with colour and not painted, to save energy: around 70% of the energy used in traditional car plants is in the paint shop. There’s even a layer of moss in the dashboard to regulate humidity and filter out particulates. But if, on a dreary winter day, the Sun can only take it 1.8 miles, you have to wonder if the car-buying public will be tempted.

What’s amazing is just how much the Sion has already taken off, said Will Trinkwon in Autocar. Between December and January, the makers raised an average of s1m a day, with 75% of that money coming from 13,000 pre-orders. Its plan, to make 260,000 cars in eight years, is extremely ambitious, but Sono’s success to date indicates people are ready for a new kind of EV.