German Solar Startup Car Company Raises $55M Through Crowdfunding

German company Sono Motors will deliver its first solar-only car by 2021 thanks to the success of its crowdfunding campaign.

The startup reached its €50 million ($55 million) fundraising goal on Saturday, the company announced on Twitter. It had raised €52 million ($58 million) at the time of writing. 

The crowdfunding campaign was extended until January 20 after the company failed to meet its initial goal at the end of December 2019.

The company decided to pursue a crowdfunding campaign after traditional backers urged Sono to drop its plans for the Sion solar car, saying it would be too expensive to produce.

“We faced the risk of losing our key technologies to investors, who do not share our convictions. This would have been the end of the project Sion; the end of what we have promised,” the company said in a statement on its website.

The startup instead chose to turn to its supporters to raise the funds it needed in order to avoid “selling out.”

What is the Sion?

The Sion aims to be the first completely solar-run vehicle. It is completely covered in solar panels, including the hood of the car, doors, fenders, tailgate and roof. The solar panels are designed with polymer instead of glass, making it about 20% lighter than a typical metal frame car, at only 4-8 mg per square meter.

With its solar paneled body, the Sion can produce enough energy for 34 kilometers (21.1 miles) per day, the company claims.

The car will also have a 35 kWh battery, enough for 255 kilometers (158.5 miles) and can be charged at any public charging station in Europe. In addition, it can charge up to 80% of its battery life in just 30 minutes.

Users will also be able to share unused energy via a goSonno app and make money by selling energy.

The interior of the vehicle features the company’s natural air filter system called breSono. It uses island moss to filter 20% of particulate matter from the air and regulate humidity.

The car can also be used as a mobile energy device, useful for camping. Electronic devices can be powered up to 3.7 kW, 11 kW if using a Type 2 plug.

Who is behind the Sion?

Sono Motors was founded in 2016 in Munich to produce a fossil-free car for daily use. The founders, Jona Christians and Laurinha Hahn, are long-time friends and climate change advocates.

The company already has 10,000 preorders for its Sion car. It expects to deliver 260,000 cars that will be produced by NEVS in Sweden.

How does the crowdfunding campaign work?

Those interested in supporting Sono Motors have until the end of Jan. 20 to do so. There are three ways to participate in the crowdfund- by donating, reserving by making a down payment between €500 and €25,500 for Sion, or making a loan to the company.

The founders also took the unusual move of putting their available profit share (64% of dividend rights to net retained profit) into a community pool for reservation holder. While the founders have waived their personal profits, they still retain voting rights, of about 74% of company shares.

The move was approved by Germany’s regulatory body, BaFin, in December.

While no solar-powered cars are commercially available, Sono Motors isn’t the only one trying to create a fossil-free car using the Sun’s energy. Toyota is in the works to develop a solar-only car, while other fossil-free alternatives also exist, such as Tesla vehicles and other battery-powered models.