So when I look at it, myself, the challenges that our society will be facing in the next few decades, the Sion is the answer to many of these challenges that we have in the future. I’m Max, I’m Program Manager at Sono Motors. This means I am responsible for time, cost and quality of the vehicle. Here I have simply presented a clear overview about the individual phases of our program. From the beginning to the launch of the Sion. What we see here is the vehicle program schedule. It always consists of the individual schedules of each module, combined here in a multi-project management plan. This means that the individual vehicle modules such as Powertrain, Chassis, Thermal, Body Structure have their own project plans here as well. And here is the summary, the merge of each single plan. “How much manpower does it take to develop the Sion? I can’t imagine you can do that with just like 100 people.” We are still a very lean company. One can also imagine that about 100 employees of Sono are not enough to handle such a complex project. This means that we work very closely with a variety of external resources: engineering service providers and supplier services, that are extending our team with engineering know-how. The bottom line is that about 400 people are currently working on the Sion vehicle project. “I would like to know what Sono Motors is developing internally at all?” Basically all USPs like viSono, biSono, breSono and also Sharing goSono are internal developments. Because that is really what distinguishes our product from other products on the market at the end of the day. These are the unique selling points and we put our internal development focus on them. For other systems, which of course are not less important for the vehicle development, but don’t differentiate ours from other products like for example wheel suspension or the chassis itself we have the “off-the-shelf” or
“carry-over-parts” strategies because we want to use proven systems. We also do all the set-ups ourselves i.e. Powertrain Bench, E/E Bench etc. they all happen in-house. Which is of course always an advantage when building hardware and the developer sits right next to it then you can directly rely on close coordination. “What is the difference between you and other manufacturers in the development of a vehicle?” The main reason for this is, that we only have one variant. A variant saves us time in the design phase, because we only have to develop and simulate one vehicle virtually. Furthermore, it saves us valuable time in the “part order phase”, in which parts are ordered and tools built, and most of it comes later in the testing phase. So when you test the vehicle you have assembled on the test site, of course, we only have to check one variant, which means we don’t have to test and check 50, 60 or 200 variants, but only one. This way we can really shorten the testing period massively. At the same time we have the “off-the-shelf” or “carry-over-part” strategy. The parts we use in the vehicle have already been developed, approved and tested by the supplier, or they are already installed in other cars. We don’t have to go into the individual tests here, but only have to test these components in the entire vehicle. “Why the one-product strategy? Does this only save time in development or does it also save costs?” It saves us immense costs, especially investment costs, because, as I said, all we need is one set of tools, to assemble a vehicle. It also follows our holistic approach and the vision of Sono Motors, to integrate a car- and ride-sharing together right from the start. That means, if I have only one variant and all the cars look the same, then of course these are better suited to operate car-Sharing and ride-Sharing. “How do you actually approach the development of a vehicle?” Like every project, we start with the concept phase, that was early 2017. We can see that here: The basic idea is to conduct a concept study in such a way that 2-3 solution variants for all areas are examined in detail. One examines one’s package, one simulates roughly, which powertrain will I use,
how big must the battery be, which axes do I use, etc.
And what was the advantage for us, and that was also our approach: We stepped right into the hardware, i.e. we needed the first concept vehicles in the first 6 months, the one you all know from the test drives.
The main goal here was to bring Sono Motors’ vision closer to the community and to show to the world what the Sion really brings in terms of everyday benefits. What happened after was: We went on a test drive tour and this gave us the huge advantage of getting the
feedback we got from the community, and integrate it directly into our vehicle development. In this way we have improved the all-round visibility in the vehicle, improved ergonomics – and other issues. “With how many suppliers did you actually talk to?” As you can imagine, in our vehicle we have over 1000 parts, and to find over 100 suppliers for 1000 parts, to negotiate, to coordinate schedules, that has been an enormous effort, which we have successfully completed. And then what happened: At the end of this concept phase there will be a concept release. This means that you release a solution through your supplier network and the first CAD and CAE investigations,
which you have worked out beforehand, and then go into series development.
This is the so-called design phase. Then you really go into detail, you take your package and your CAD and then you must figure out the details. “Do you need more prototypes until start of production?” What happens in the middle here, in this design phase: You also go into the next degree of maturity of your vehicle. At the beginning we saw the SVC1, the concept car. In this design phase you build the SVC2, the so-called development vehicle which is mainly to calibrate the powertrain and to do our Chassis Road-Load-Data Acquisition. And of course you build more hardware, like Powertrain Bench E/E Bench etc., support the development of the virtual vehicle with hardware and then you can drive the test results and loops directly here. “What does SVC mean?” So SVC basically stands for “Stage of Vehicle Construction”. It means the individual state of development of the vehicle. This goes up to stage 4 in our case. This reflects the degree of maturity or the state of development of the vehicle. “How do you develop a vehicle virtually?” Basically, one can imagine there is always
a variation between CAD and CAE. This means that you have your virtual vehicle, you design it and then there is always a certain level of simulation, i.e. CAE. And then they simulate all the requirements we place on the vehicle. With these simulation results you go back again and update your virtual vehicle and these loops are repeated as often as you like, depending on the complexity and the module, until you come to the design release at the end. That means on this day it is finished and you can go into the next construction phase. “When will we get any information on the crash tests?” Maybe some general information about homologation: So basically it is the case that you document the possible homologation, i.e. that you carry out crash tests together with the authority, and submit these documents to the KBA (Federal Motor Transport Authority) and then get the approval. This of course happens at the end of the phase. This is simply a set of requirements that we have to meet for the vehicle. And of course we have been developing our vehicle here since the beginning of the concept and design phase so that it meets these requirements. This means that in the first design phase we have the virtual validation. So that’s where we do all the crash simulations, that’s where we simulate the crash. This way we get approvals and of course we would never take a component for the next construction phase if we weren’t 100% sure it would pass the crash at the end of the day. Homologation is simply the repetition, under supervision, of all the tests that have already been considered before. “If Sono really makes it to the 50 million, what are the next steps?” The next steps would now be to complete the last loop of our simulation. This means that we are now at the next phase, where we will secure the last design stage again with a simulation. Depending on the feedback of this simulation there might be a short update for our virtual vehicle. And then it’s time for ordering the tooling. The next construction phase is the prototypes, the series prototypes. There you go into the “part order”, the ordering phase, with the design release. Tools are then drawn and built, tools for all parts. Then there is the dv, “design verification”, also of the components themselves.
Until you get to the “Material Required Date”, that’s the day when every single one of over 1000 parts arrive in our “Prototype Shop”. Vehicles are already being built here on a prototype line. These are the next two construction phases. On the one hand body bites are built, this means the bodyshell. Why do you do that? Because you don’t have to do all the tests that you do later, here in the next phase, in the complete vehicle. Some tests can only be done in the body-in-white environment. Once this construction phase has been successfully completed, we move on to the testing phase. Here we test the functionality of the entire vehicle, i.e. we have a complete test plan with over 500 tests that we perform in different environments. So here the vehicle is put through its paces. This is also where the physical crash tests take place for the first time, which we of course approved beforehand in the simulation. With these tests, in which we cooperate
with an established testing center, there is then of course always feedback to the development, because for example a holder still has to be redesigned or something on the package does not quite fit etc. Then there is another short design update phase, where we update the virtual vehicle with the test results. After that, the so-called “Engineering Sign Off” or the design release for the manufacturing build is complete. At the end of this design release, we order the hard toolings. So the steel tools. Primarily to support the final series production. Of course, there’s the same ordering phase again. There we have to build tools again etc. Depending on the individual delivery times of the tools, of course this design release is also variable, as you can imagine. And again at the MRD values the first tool falling parts are delivered to our contract manufacturer and then the assembly of the series vehicles starts on the series line in the “Series Body Shop” and “General Assembly”. So then vehicles are really assembled on the final line. What happens at the same time at the supplier, is the so-called PPAP, i.e. Production Part Approval Process. Simply described, this is a quality assurance method to ensure the supplier is able to manufacture and test components regarding our specified quality in our capacities and delivery conditions. When one then has this structure with the PPAP process, that can happen in parallel, one has reached a certain level of confidence, safety, the components are tested and approved, than the vehicle assembly is complete. Then you go into the final phase here, take vehicles out of series production, and then go into what is known as “Sign-Off Testing”. These are really the final tests that you carry out together with the authority or a certain authority in order to get the “Type Approval” at the end. With the “Type Approval”, “Start of Regular Production” starts and then you start having your ramp-up, turning up the automation and mass-producing e-vehicles. “How does it work, the ramp-up and the actual start of production?” The first vehicles to be assembled here in this phase are still relatively manually assembled. What then happens is, that in the ramp-up phase, the degree of automation is increased and the welding processes are automated, the whole sub-assemblies which happen in the production, are designed more automated and then one switches sometime from the one-shift operation at the beginning to a two-shift operation and so one arrives approx. in a half year
to eight months at its full load volume. “What? Now the timing is being postponed again?” What you always have to keep in mind is that a vehicle program is always something infinitely complex and this interaction, this interlocking of all these different systems is a very big challenge: with development, with purchasing, with manufacturing, that everything runs smoothly and that you also have to build up. And we also had to build up all the processes to a certain extent. But what of course also led to a major delay is the investment gap we had. As a result of which we could not develop further at the speed at which we had planned, we had to cut back a little, could not make large tool investments, and that is actually the main reason why we have the delay now. “How sure is it that you can keep the schedule now?” Of course you always have a certain risk which you have in every vehicle development. In every project there is a certain risk assessment and what we want to show here is that if certain cases occur, how would the timing in a certain worst case shift. That means, for example, here this “drop” done right at the beginning of the design release is, of course, like I said, we still have a simulation loop and then an update phase. Of course, it can happen that the simulation loop doesn’t deliver the desired results and we have to update again and then do another simulation loop. Then of course we have a delay of three months. It can happen that we are set up here in the manufacturing of the vehicles, we really have over 1000 parts that are delivered to one place for the first time, so of course there can also be challenges in this setup. Furthermore, in the test phase, what can happen if a test does not deliver the desired results, which were simulated beforehand. And this would add up to this delay, of course. What we’re doing at Sono Motors and as explained in detail, we’re working according to this 2022 timing, of course but we don’t want to close our eyes to what could actually happen in this complexity at the end of the day. “Are you confident enough to ensure that this timing is possible?” Yeah, I’d say so. We are really convinced that we can keep this timing. I think the most important thing in my eyes is to inform about it early and to have close contact. That we say: “Okay, here we have had difficulties.” And then we really go into a direct communication and I think you can always find a solution. “If I participate in Sono Motors, I would like to be informed regularly about the development of the Sion.” I could imagine that at regular intervals we can give a transparent update on exactly where we stand. So like a kind of “program status”, what we’ve done, what the challenges are, and then simply give an update at certain milestones. That we continue to work together on this vehicle project and
have full transparency. “I’ve asked a lot of times, but you rarely published anything about the development.” So how is it that we now go out with this complete timing. This is quite simply due to the financing strategy we have pursued. You have secrecy agreements with these investors, you’re in a due diligence, so in an audit, and so on. And that simply prohibits you from openly and transparently presenting everything to the outside world. Of course, this also meant that we had to cut back massively in development. So we could not continue full speed as we had planned. And that’s why we couldn’t start the tools for the next construction phase. With the new financing strategy we have, it is finally possible for us to be as open and honest as we would like to be. “Do you still want to get something off your chest?” I must frankly say, I don’t regret a single second. I can honestly say that I’ve never got up in the morning, not a single day, and thought: “Oh no, I have to go back to the office.” What makes Sono Motors special is simply the team. The people who work here, I’ve never seen
anything like it before, in no other project. With this dedication, with this motivation, everyone is just working towards this goal. That’s incredible, and that’s what motivates me to put twelve hours full throttle every day. Of course not twelve hours, that is of course less – that’s clear. But everything here is amazing, it’s so impressive.