New battery gives Sono Motors’ PV-paneled car a range boost

German startup Sono Motors has introduced new battery technology for its forthcoming Sion electric vehicle that promises to not only power the vehicle across longer trips but allow higher charging rates in between. The battery design also does away with expensive metals in favor of greener components, while adding 50 km (31 miles) of range.

Sono Motors first put its Sion electric vehicle up for pre-order in 2017, and following a big crowdfunding campaign in 2019, finally introduced a pre-production prototype at CES earlier this year.

The car features integrated solar cells across the hood, roof, doors and rear, which top up the onboard battery with the Sun’s energy whenever possible. The electric drive offers 150-kW peak power and 270 Nm (199 lb-ft) of torque, while top speed is listed as 140 km/h (87 mph).

The solar cells are still expected to add a peak of 245 km (152 miles) of range per week in optimal conditions, but these will now feed energy into a newly designed 54-kWh lithium-iron phosphate battery, which, along with nickel and manganese, eschews cobalt, a traditional and troublesome battery component.

According to the company, this increases the range from 255 km (158 miles) to 305 km (190 miles), and also boosts the charging rate from 50 kW to 75 kW. Sono Motors says the battery will also remain safe and functional across 3,000 cycles, or enough to travel 900,000 km (560,00 miles).

“The growing EV market is generating enormous demand for longer-lasting, more sustainable batteries,” says Markus Volmer, Chief Technology Officer at Sono Motors. “This enhanced battery enables Sion drivers to extend the time between charges, whilst reducing the charging time itself. This effectively optimizes the Sion to deliver easy and affordable sustainable mobility for everyone.”

Sono Motors says it has now received more than 13,000 down payments for the Sion, which carries a full purchase price of €25,500 (about US$30,000). Production was originally planned to start next year, though that timeline is now unclear due to issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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