Today we bring you the battery-powered, crowd-funded car that’s far closer to road-ready than some multimillion-dollar electric vehicle (EV) boondoggles — and you’ve probably never even heard of it.
But once you do, you’ll likely be intrigued by the prospect of this car being “free” to drive.
Sono Motors of Germany is currently testing an electric car that’s due to make its road debut in Europe as soon as 2019. Dubbed the Sion, this car’s surfaces are covered in solar panels, which allows the user to recharge a limited amount of capacity each day simply by parking the vehicle outside.
According to the World Economic Forum, solar gets around a problem that has turned out to be a huge impediment to electric car adoption — the lack of convenient charging infrastructure. The vehicle features a 250 km range, which comes out to about 155 miles. This doesn’t come close to a Tesla, which can drive for over 300 miles before needing a charge, but it’s higher than a lot of commercially available EVs on the market now.
This car beats a typical EV's charging requirements, though, because, well, the sun is everywhere. And while the solar option is limited to about 18 miles, many drivers will be able to “buy back” their morning-commute energy while their car sits outside of their offices.
If you’re not sold by now, here’s another tantalizing feature that might seal the deal: These cars can become the equivalent of a traveling power plant. In theory, the car could actually power your home for up to seven days on a fully charged 35KwH battery, according to Sono. Whether this passes regulatory measures is another story, but Sono says they’re working on it — at least in Europe.
Likewise, a Dutch company is taking the solar car concept a step further with the Lightyear One, which ups the solar factor and the range. This car should be hitting the streets in 2020.
So, what about the prospects for America? We’re working on it: The 2018 American Solar Challenge, a 1,700-mile trek across the Oregon Trail, featured 14 solar-powered entries, including ones from UC Berkley and MIT.