The future of solar EVs dims: Lightyear is bankrupt, Sion fights for its life, Aptera on the brink

It’s been a real tough month for the few but extremely innovative solar EV companies out here. Having just announced a shifting of its business strategy and a request to suspend all payments to its operating company, Lightyear has officially declared bankruptcy. Sono Motors’ flagship solar EV, the Sion, is staring down a similar barrel, as the startup fights to raise more funds to keep it alive. Meanwhile, Aptera has a production-intent design, but still needs millions of dollars to get it to production.

Let’s begin with the worst news and try to find some more positive tidbits going forward. It pains me to say this, but Lightyear has officially declared bankruptcy. Just three days after announcing a halt to all Lightyear 0 production to focus on the 2, it appears the future of each is in limbo, or even worse, will remain an extremely aerodynamic dream.

At the time, Lightyear shared that it had requested a halt to all payments to Atlas Technologies B.V. – its operating company responsible for its solar EV production. The suspension was granted by Rechtbank Oost-Brabant located in the Netherlands, appointing someone from Holla legal & tax as the trustee. Per the release:

Lightyear regrets having to make this announcement for all employees, customers, investors and suppliers and will work closely with the curator and all the people who are involved and hope for their understanding and support. In the coming period the curator will focus on the position of the employees and creditors as well as assessing how the Lightyear concept can be continued.

This news continues to come as a shock for many as Lightyear was just teasing its second solar EV model at CES in early January, full staff in tow. As the last sentence from Lightyear states, its solar EVs stumble back into “concepts” rather than production vehicles.

Its only hope now may be for someone to purchase its intellectual property and take a crack at scaling, or it regroups for several years, garners more funding, and re-emerges like Aptera did.

More on Aptera in a second, but we’ve got another solar EV update from Sono Motors as well, and it’s not nearly as devastating… at least not yet.

Sono raises over $50M, extends #SaveSion campaign

Lightyear may have lost its shirt, but another solar EV startup in Europe still has some fight left in it. In early December, Sono Motors CEOs and cofounders Jona Christians and Laurin Hahn delivered a public statement outlining the financial struggles of its Sion solar EV program.

They explained that the future of the Sion was on the edge of being scrapped completely so Sono could focus on its revenue-generating solar technology business. As a company that has been saved by its network of loyal fans before, Sono launched a 50-day fundraising campaign called #SaveSion asking reservation holders to commit to their solar EV purchase.

Sono Motors explained it would use those committed funds to help kick off a 12-month journey to get the Sion solar EV into production. Following the full 50-day campaign, Sono says it has raised over €47 million (about $51M). However, that’s merely half of its target to proceed with Sion production.

Now, the Sono team says talks with potential investors are progressing, so it has extended the #SaveSion campaign through February. Sono cofounder and CEO Laurin Hahn spoke:

Our plan to send a clear signal to both the market and investors through growing reservations, payment commitments, and additional sources of almost €50 million seems to be working. We are in ongoing talks with potential investors and believe that the campaign’s extension positions us to reach our target of approximately €100 million and proceed with the Sion program. The engagement of thousands of Community members has proven the market demand for the Sion once again. The determination we feel from the thousands of calls, emails, and personal interactions with the Community, combined with the inquisitive feedback of numerous potential investors, empowers us to continue both the campaign and our fight for the Sion – our affordable, climate-friendly and unparalleled mobility solution.

While fighting to raise capital, Sono Motors has continued its testing and series-validation program of the Sion, which it says remains on a fast track to start pre-series production this summer. Pending February’s results of course.

Reservations can currently be made in 27 different European regions, but unfortunately, US consumers cannot join the movement. You can learn more at the #SaveSion dedicated page.

Aptera adds DC fast charging to solar EVs but needs cash

Last but not least is Aptera, the only US-based solar EV startup on our list today. Nothing new to report this second, so just a quick recap while we’re talking SEV struggles. Last week, the company presented a preconfigured Launch Edition of its Aptera Solar EV, which will be the first version available to reservation holders if and when it reaches production.

If that does happen, we’ve learned the Launch Edition (and any other Apteras) will come with DC fast-charging capabilities after the company made a quick U-turn on statements last week that said otherwise. This sent fans of the solar EV company into a tizzy, but Aptera’s founders took the feedback to heart… plus they were already developing the capability anyway, so they decided to add it.

Regardless of fast-charging capabilities, there’s still a chance that Aptera follows the same fate as Lightyear (and potentially Sono) by running out of money. During last week’s reveal, cofounder Chris Anthony explained that Aptera is in need of at least $50 million in additional capital this year just to reach the first gate of volume solar EV production.

To date, the company says it has raised $85 million from over 15,000 investors, including previous crowdfunding campaigns, but will need more cash to implement the necessary tools and machinery to mass produce its vehicles.

In addition to more crowdfunding, Aptera’s founders explained they are seeking government loans and grant programs to reach that additional $50M and beyond. All in all, the Launch Edition SEVs are still 12 months away at the earliest, pending Aptera’s own capital raise campaign.

Not the brightest time for solar EV development, but the technology has been proven effective and could truly change electric mobility… someday. We just need to see who has deep enough pockets to scale it to the masses.

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