dusseldorf The members of the Sono Motors board of directors are currently occupied. Whether in Munich, Amsterdam or Zurich, they talk to stakeholders everywhere and answer questions about the car from the Munich start-up. Even CFO Torsten Kiedel is there, which impresses people, he says. “I talked to hundreds of people during test drives.”

The technology and the idea are really at the forefront with the Sion: the body-integrated solar cells, which are intended to drive the electric car thousands of kilometers a year. But these days it’s all about finances. Sono lacks 104 million euros to “bring this revolution to the streets”, as the website says.

So the CFO rolls up his sleeves too and explains the rescue operation to visitors. By January 26, so many customers must order and pay for the vehicle that the money is collected. As a prize, there is a ten percent discount on the purchase price of about 30,000 euros. “I am confident that we will achieve the goal of the campaign,” says CEO and co-founder Laurin Hahn.

Clients bear high financial risk.

Since the beginning of December, almost €44 million has been raised from more than 8,000 customers, mainly through YouTube videos, test drives and word of mouth. The start-up will also receive €1.4 million in innovation funding from the EU Commission, Sono has confirmed to Handelsblatt.

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The company strikes a chord with the idea of ​​an affordable solar-powered electric car. “They always get up and have great fans, which they have won over with their enthusiasm and authenticity,” says the former vauxhall– Chief Karl-Thomas Neumann. “That impresses me.”

However, there are also criticisms of the action. “Money can disappear,” says Neumann. “I wouldn’t dare do that,” but at least, says the auto expert, “it’s clear to everyone that it is.”

>> Read also: Emergency braking in the electric car market: a study predicts a collapse in sales

There are now around 44,000 pre-orders for the Sion, with an average deposit of €2,000 per car. Clients bear great financial risk. According to CEO Hahn, money from supporters will only be raised when the campaign has reached the total sum of 104 million euros. But even then it’s unclear if the Sion will ever be truly functional. Because the company needs a total of 210 million euros to deliver the vehicles as planned in the first quarter of 2024. “Actually, investors and banks should finance it,” says Egil Juliussen, an analyst at industrial service VSI Labs.

Sono wants to close the financing gap with cash and machine loans and the company’s 34 patents, 28 of them for solar technology. However, so far, sales of solar technology have been manageable. Sono billed around 200,000 euros from January to September 2022, according to the latest economic report. In the same period, the company reported an operating loss of 103 million euros.

However, CFO Kieder hopes that the capital market will continue to place its trust in us: “We are having good talks with investors. They like the campaign and we have almost 44 million euros. That gives them security.”

The stock is a better “penny stock”

At the time of the IPO in November 2021, Sono’s enterprise value had risen to the equivalent of €2.5 billion. But within a year, the stock had recently plunged 95 percent. Hahn justifies this with the general bad state of the stock market and the general decline of electric car manufacturers. Kieder also sees signs of stabilization in the price, albeit at a very low level: “The stock was in the penny range, but then rallied.”

The start of series production was originally announced for 2019, but then had to be postponed several times. The Sion is now 10,000 euros more expensive than initially anticipated.

In recent years, Sono has faced financial bankruptcy several times.. Founders Hahn, Jona Christians and Navina Pernsteiner, who left in the fall of 2020, have repeatedly opened up new sources of money. With various campaigns, the company raised more than 60 million euros in crowdfunding, the last in 2020 when a big investor’s crowdfunding campaign succeeded at the last second.

Even if series production should start, many questions remain unanswered. Sono has not yet had a dealer network. Service and repairs must be carried out by independent workshops. Sono then wants to send the necessary spare parts by courier. This is an idea that no one in the auto industry has implemented yet.

If the campaign fails, many of the 420 employees would have to leave. So Sono wants to focus solely on his solar technology. So far, the start-up has worked with numerous companies such as MAN or the transport company from Munich. Their vehicles are equipped with Sono’s solar technology, for example, to power refrigerated trucks. “A large automobile manufacturer has signed an order and would like to jointly explore the integration of solar technology into its large-scale production,” says CEO Hahn.

Contract manufacturing in Finland

Sono Motors installed a total of 456 half cells in the Sion prototype. you must dem electric car Provide extra power while parking without having to plug in a cable. With the integrated solar cells, the car could charge an average of 70 miles a week from the sun alone, Sono promises. When the sun shines brightly, it can be even 245 kilometers.

This makes it clear: the car is not completely powered by the sun. If you want to drive more, you should charge the LFP battery normally at the socket. And the electric competition has also grown stronger: cars like this Toyota Prius, the hyundai ionic 5 and fisherman Ocean are now at least available with a sunroof.

>> Read also: Small cars are going extinct: why renault twin, ford parties and vw until disappear

Despite a publicity tour in the US, Sono is not yet established internationally. 80 percent of pre-orders currently come from Germany, ten percent from Switzerland and Austria, another ten percent from various European countries. The brand is not represented in the most important electric car market, China.

It’s built sparingly: Sono only offers one model in one color, black, to begin with. A cooperation with the Swedish electric vehicle manufacturer NEVS fell through, now it should the Sion rolls off the production line of experienced Finnish contract manufacturer Valmet. “We save a lot of money by not building a factory from scratch,” says Sono’s brochure, outlining the strategy for customers. “But we still have to buy robots and production tools that are specifically designed for the Sion.”

Is the project successful? “It was a big shock at first,” says CFO Kiedler, “but the campaign inspires enthusiasm that encourages me.” Which is also reassuring: if enough money isn’t raised by January 26, Sion can continue the campaign for 40 more days.

Collaboration: Lucas Bay

More: End game for the solar car: how Sono Motors plans series production

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