Sono Motors, the company that aims to revolutionize the future of solar-powered transport, recently launched its proprietary solar technology to public transport for the first time in partnership with the Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft (Munich Transport Company, MVG).
The novel solar bus trailer will hit the roads in the Munich metropolitan area in the near future, testing the energy yields as well as the potential of the technology in daily operation. Offering possible savings of up to 2,500 liters of diesel per year and an annual local CO2 saving potential of more than 6.5 metric tonnes per bus, Sono Solar Technology contributes to climate protection and the reduction of inner-city greenhouse gas emissions.
20 semi-flexible special photovoltaic (PV) modules provide over 2,000 watts to power the vehicle’s battery and electrical loads such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, as well as the trailer’s steering system.
“The partnership with MVG illustrates the enormous potential of our unique solar technology, which is now being used for the first time in the company’s history on public transport. This is a milestone in Sono Motors’ mission to make every vehicle solar”, says Laurin Hahn, Sono Motors co-founder and CEO. “Especially in times of rising energy prices and increasing urban area emission regulations, our solar technology offers great added value for public transport operators. City buses and coaches, whether electric or diesel-powered, offer a lot of space and are out on the road every day. The first solar bus trailer for MVG will hit the streets of Munich in the future and allow MVG passengers to experience solar mobility in daily use,” Hahn continues.
High CO2 Saving Potential Thanks to Powerful Solar Technology
The CO2 saving potential of solar-powered vehicles and their contribution to urban air pollution control and climate protections are promising. For a medium-sized fleet of around 300 buses, calculations show the possibility of savings of up to 2,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per year. Further increases are conceivable in the future, as both the solar cells and the power electronics are expected to become more efficient. This solar solution’s so-called ‘CO2 backpack’, i.e., emissions caused in production, amounts to a one-off of approximately 1.5 metric tonnes of CO2 per bus or bus trailer and could be offset after a short runtime of just less than one year.
Over 2,000 Watts of Power to Improve the Energy Balance
The solar technology was developed and tested specifically for use on buses. The concept for the customized solar bus trailer was developed in collaboration with MVG to ensure maximum space utilization and efficiency. In addition to the robust solar installation, which is optimized for vehicle integration, this also includes electrical integration by means of the power electronics developed by Sono Motors (MPPT central unit), called MCU. The solar charge controller has an intelligent algorithm that optimizes the PV modules’ energy yields.
Due to the ultra-fast optimization in the millisecond range and the multi-channel system, the PV yields can be transferred to the battery of the bus in the best possible way. The modules cover a total area of twelve square meters and supply the 24 V battery with over 2,000 watts. In this case, the solar energy generated in this way is used to operate the HVAC system (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) and to support the trailer steering system. In addition to saving diesel, the additional electricity ensures the stabilization of the battery’s energy supply, thus extending its service life and reducing maintenance costs. The energy generated can be monitored online using the integrated software.
Veit Bodenschatz, Managing Director and Head of Bus Division of the MVG says, “the photovoltaic system on our bus trailer now allows us to test under real conditions how well the power generation works and whether there are perhaps routes in our network that are better suited than others for this type of power generation. The question of what energy savings can be achieved by using solar energy are, of course, particularly exciting against the background of current fuel and energy prices”.
Range Extension for E-Buses Possible
Sono Motors’ patented solar technology has been developed so that it can be integrated and licensed into a wide range of vehicles. “When e-buses are factory-equipped with our solar technology, additional range can immediately be generated through solar energy on the roof and sides. This not only reduces the standstill times for charging processes, but also protects the battery through a constant charging process. As a result, the e-bus can be operated longer,” explains Hahn.
Presentation of the Solar Bus Alongside Munich Vice Mayor Katrin Habenschaden
Munich’s vice mayor, Katrin Habenschaden, was a guest at the presentation and press conference on 31 March at MVG’s west depot in Munich Laim.
Katrin Habenschaden, “We need a change of course in the transport sector. Transport still misses the climate protection targets by a very wide margin, and this also has a direct impact on air quality in Munich. The solar buses can be a cornerstone in this urgently needed change towards climate-friendly mobility. I am convinced by the idea, as a lot of fuel can be saved here, and CO2 emissions can be significantly reduced. We are already working with MVG to completely convert our bus fleet to electric drives. Harnessing the power of the sun is of course even more sustainable and I hope that this pilot project will show that we can also extend the range of the e-buses using solar energy. I am particularly pleased about this cooperation with our MVG that such an innovative idea comes from a Munich-based company.”
After technical approval by supervisory authorities, the bus trailer will go into regular service and be experienced by all Munich residents.
Sono Motors has already signed more than ten LOIs and contracts with companies such as MAN, easymile or ARI Motors since the beginning of 2021. The Sono Solar complete solution includes a customized concept including solar modules, power electronics, telematics and data, mechanical and electrical integration as well as after-sales and service. The technology is suitable for integration into existing vehicles as well as production-ready development and integration into new vehicles during the production phase.