Electric vehicles and hybrid cars are one of the most innovative segments in the automotive industry, with world champions like Tesla that disrupted the global market with high end car models and a revolutionary project to build Gigafactory, the world largest high performance battery production site, in a financial management network very peculiar when it comes to Elon Musk’s companies.
2015 was a crucial year for the EV market especially for the plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs): US sales dropped after more than five years of double-digit growth. In the meantime sales in China tripled in 2015 bringing the Asian country to the first place in terms of market size and potential, globally. There were a number of reasons behind the slowdown in PEV sales in the US in 2015: the insufficient charging infrastructure and limited range was the primary reason. The fallen fuel costs diminished the clear economic advantage of buying PEV considering higher model prices, and made the rest. Many mainstream carmakers, including BMW and Ford, introduced turbocharged engines that improved by 30% fuel economy and emissions, without negative effect on dynamics, and determined a better performance of forced induction engines that became a more usable alternative for electric vehicles, offering sufficient efficiency at a reasonable price, while the PEVs sales forecast for 2016-2020 in the US is still expected to double the vehicle sales within 2018, breaking the 250.000 units achievements during 2020 according to hybridcars.com.
In this context we shouldn’t underestimate the high disruptive potential of innovative startups. Sono motors, for example, is a German company founded by Jona Christians, Navina Pernsteiner and Laurin Hahn, starting its business in a small garage and achieving the pre-prototyping stage over the last 4 years and currently collecting funds on Indiegogo for the Sion car project.
Sion is made to be the electric car for everyone: a five-door compact van, purely electric, with a battery capacity of 30 kWh and fast-charge performance with up to 43 kW, made to easily deal with long haul trips and everyday usage. Sono Motors provides a unique self-charging system called viSono, which charges the Sion through solar cells. With a surface area of 7.5 m², these cells generate enough electricity to give the Sion an additional 30 free kilometres in one day, making the dream of a self-charging electric car possible.
Another interesting feature is reSono a manteinance system that favourablemaintenance costs due to inexpensive spare parts. An instruction catalogue and a tutorial video will be provided, intended to guarantee that even an amateur can install spare parts into the vehicle without major automotive knowledge and a royalty-free disclosure of the workshop manual meant to enable brand independent car repair shops all over the world to repair the Sion car.
Sono motors campaign on Indiegogo raised more than € 250.000 last September achieving 120% of its crowdfunding goal. We reached out with Sono team and interviewed Laurin, one of the co-founders, who provided a very interesting feedback.
How was your idea born? How did you set up your startup?
We started in a garage with the aim of doing something good for the environment. As we started, we didn’t had any business plan or a road map, we just started to build this pre-prototype. But as we worked longer on this project it really started to get more seriously and so the idea was born of funding a car company. We founded a GmbH and got more people into our team. With the success of the crowdfunding campaign, we were totally overwhelmed.
How did you manage your funding needs and what’s your attitude towards the startup environment (crowdfunding, startup funding rounds, angel investors, startup awards / contests, etc.)?
Well, crowdfunding is a huge opportunity for start-ups to get started. But you have to have a product, which is interesting for the community. Otherwise it won’t work. We are now looking for additional investors, to get our 3 prototypes done by mid 2017. Contest are ideal for proofing your concept and get better in presenting your company.
What’s the market position of your products compared to Tesla and other established players?
Well, we are in a totally different segment then Tesla and other. We are in the segment of compact family Van, which is low priced. We want to enable electromobility for everyone not only for the upper class.
What’s the added value of a startup like Sono motors in the automotive industry, compared to classic big players like BMW, Opel, Volkswagen, etc.?
We are faster than big OEMs. Those huge companies are stuck with old technologies and having travel to flip over to new mobility concepts, as long the old technology still works.
What integration you foresee between EV manufacturers, renewable energy companies and institution to finally build a smart grid and a smart city?
Well, we need for that a political regulation. Otherwise its going to be hard to get a smart grid worldwide. Its the same with the EV-Plugs, every OEM is doing its own thing. Smart grid is one really big milestone in reaching 100% renewable energy. We have bidirectional charging integrated in the Sion to get smart grid for every household.