A year ago, the solar module car Sion from the Munich electric car company Sono Motors was about to end. Then came the rescue via crowdfunding. Now investors are bringing new money into the house. But it will take a while before series production.
Munich – The corona pandemic is also severely affecting the auto industry. It is all the more remarkable that the Munich electric car company Sono Motors has found new financiers. Swedbank in particular is investing 45 million euros in the start-up through its sustainability fund, but also DNCA from Luxembourg. “It shows us that there is great interest in environmentally friendly technologies,” says Sono CFO Torsten Kiedel. “That helps us a lot in the development of the Sion”, adds Sono co-founder and co-boss Laurin Hahn. Sion is the name of the young company’s electric car equipped with solar cells, which was further developed into a near-series prototype during the Corona crisis. This should be presented in mid-January.
Around 160 million euros are still missing
The consumer electronics fair CES in Las Vegas, which this time takes place digitally due to corona, serves as the stage. “The CES is the global epicenter for digital innovations, and the Sion is a digital product,” said co-founder Jona Christians, explaining the choice of the forum. The solar cell vehicle is designed for mobility services such as car sharing and can deliver electricity stored in its batteries to the power grid when required.
In addition to the current 45 million euros, Sono Motors will need another round of financing before the start of series production, Christians clarifies. Measured against the outstanding financing requirement of around 200 million euros mentioned a year ago and the new commitments, around 160 million euros are still missing, which Hahn does not deny.
Planned to double to around 250 employees
The fresh money from Swedbank and DNCA will initially be enough for further development and the planned doubling of the workforce to around 250 employees in 2021. “We can now fully take off again,” says Christians. Even in the pandemic, Sono did not have to cut any positions. With a view to preparing for series production in the former Saab works in Trollhättan, Sweden, what is needed now is above all manufacturing experts but also IT specialists. The management is now complete after the former BMW and Flixbus manager Kiedel was appointed CFO in March.
Crowdfunding campaign in early 2020
Even the ambitious start-up did not get through the pandemic without prejudice. “She hit us too,” says Christians, referring to time delays. Hahn admits that the start of series production in autumn 2021, which was targeted before the Corona crisis, can no longer be maintained. The vehicle had to be further developed purely from the home office for months. Talks with banks and investors that were actually pending in the spring were put on hold for the time being. “It felt like two months of radio silence,” says Kiedel. The managers want to announce in a few weeks how far the start of production has to be postponed. In terms of business, Sono Motors has seen worse times. A year ago, the end had threatened because the Sono founders had fallen out with investors who did not want to support their sustainability concept undiluted. One of the largest crowdfunding campaigns in Europe raised a total of 53 million euros in early 2020.
New investors support the green company philosophy
The new investors support the green company philosophy. “The investment fits in very well with our claim to actively shape the transition to a more sustainable future,” says the head of the Swedbank fund, Ulrika Enhorning. He now manages a total of a billion euros that have been put into green projects. Sono Motors, in turn, has reached the threshold of 100 million euros in total investment with the new commitments. If you add around 160 million euros, the model development from the drawing board to series production would only cost a good 250 million euros. That is a low sum for the traditional automotive industry.
In any case, the journey continues for Sono Motors. “We want to open the next chapter and go global,” says Christians self-confidently with a view to the upcoming CES presentation of the new prototype. “But we will stay who we are,” he promises his buyer and fan base, who, like the company’s founders, are committed to emission-free driving with fewer cars on the road.