Last summer, we announced that we would be adding an advisory board to our company. Since the community plays a central role in Sono Motors, we decided to include one person on the board representing and communicating their ideas, concerns, and opinions. We called for applications and received over 170 responses. In the end, our supporters voted and by winning more than 50 percent of the votes, Sebastian Böttger became the first Sono Motors advisory board member. In our interview, we talk to Sebastian about his goals, how he changed from being a skeptic to becoming a supporter, and why he thinks that in ten years, no one will be desperately looking for parking spaces anymore.
Hi Sebastian! Please tell our readers who you are and what you do when you're not thinking about the Sion.
Sure, I'd love to! My name is Sebastian Böttger, I am 47 years old, come from Munich and I am a qualified electrical engineer. I have been an entrepreneur for about 20 years and run a company for software applications. Among other things, we develop digital services for the automotive industry. I've been driving EVs since 2013 and also have my own rooftop solar power system. And, of course, my reservation number is #4774!
Not bad! That currently puts you in the upper middle. Tell us briefly why you decided to apply as a member of the advisory board.
For me, there were three decisive factors. First, I wanted to actively contribute to the development of the Sion. But a traditional job at Sono was out of the question for me, since I have my own company to run. I am also responsible for my team.
Secondly, for years I have been intensively discussing Sono Motors and the Sion in various forums and on Facebook. I've also been to almost all the events so far, where I've got to know many people from the community. And, vice versa, some of the active members also know me - also because of my weekly column on the company.
Thirdly, I can also bring a lot of technical experience to the table, as I have been active in electromobility and the energy industry for ten years. When your email arrived with the candidate requirement criteria, I found that the description fits me perfectly. Therefore I am also very happy that it all worked out.
How did you become aware of Sono Motors?
I have known about the project more or less since it was launched. Back then, the concept piqued my curiosity, which is why I went on the first test drive at the Olympiazentrum in 2017. At the time, I was very critical of the time schedule and of some of the vehicle’s unique selling points. For example, delivery in 2019 including all the promised features at such a price seemed, let’s say, extremely ambitious to me.
Nevertheless, I was very eager to find out whether the solar integration would actually work and whether it would produce anywhere near the range that you claim. That's why I also participated in the public funding campaigns on Seedrs and WiWin. I was and still am very curious to see if it really works.
Interesting! How has your attitude towards our project changed over time?
As I already mentioned, I was very critical at the beginning - and of course, I still am. As a member of the advisory board, that is simply one of my responsibilities. However, I'm much more satisfied with the way you've been acting and communicating since the big funding campaign in 2019. The project has become more grounded since then.
There was a comprehensible roadmap, transparent financial planning, and concrete measures to achieve upcoming milestones. Schedule changes happen in every project and I don't think it's a tragedy as long as everyone is aware of the consequences. That's why I'm currently pushing to get the schedule back on the website.
Back in the days, I enjoyed being critical of Sono, but essentially, I think the Sion is a very important, useful, and promising concept. All major automotive companies wanted to become mobility service providers. However, most of such joint ventures have been discontinued. Again, cars are getting bigger and more expensive. For 15 years, OEMs have wanted to make money with digital services, but little more than payable map updates have been achieved. In that regard, the Sion offers new ideas. It’s worth making way for them.
Is that why you decided to place a reservation for the Sion?
I placed my first reservation out of pure curiosity. I wanted to know if solar panels on a car would do any good. Also, since Sono wanted to collect 5,000 reservations for kicking off series production, I thought to myself - "ok, I want to see that!"
I'm still curious how much power can really be generated by solar integration. By that, I mean in a real vehicle with road approval under everyday conditions and not just on paper. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Mathieu and the Sono Solar team.
Which things do you currently regard as critical, which as positive?
What I consider to be positive is the motivation of the team. Everyone I've had contact with so far is fully committed to the project. They want to make this happen! I also admire the willingness to do things differently - despite the risk that it might not work out. Sono doesn't just want to build a car and make as much profit as possible. It's about building a sustainable company that wants to make a valuable contribution to the fight against global warming.
I still have a critical view of the still ambitious schedule and the associated budget. Some problems can really be fought with innovative ideas, others, however, only with time and/or money. The good thing is that Sono manages to hire more and more people who make such risks more and more manageable.
As an advisory board member, you represent the community within the company. What are the points that you would like to improve?
Like everyone in the community, I want the Sion to get onto the roads. Beyond that, I've set myself three other big goals.
Transparency is clearly my top priority. First, to the company, so that the community's expectations are adequately represented, and second, to the community, to create awareness for critical issues. The information must be transparent and comprehensible so that everyone knows how far the Sion still has to go before it is ready for series production. We are on the right track here and are trying out new formats, such as the "live check" of the new prototype, or already established formats like my weekly blog “Sono News”.
In addition, the community needs a real structure - a team, not just a single advisory board member. To this end, I will soon revive the interactive map, for example, in which every reservation holder can register. That way, everyone can network much easier with the others.
Finally, there is the issue of trust. I currently enjoy the confidence of Sono Motors and of the community. At least that's my current impression. Already, many people are sharing their opinions with me in a very open manner, and I consider that a good sign. As long as it stays that way, I can carry out my new function very well. I want to maintain that. Ideally, at some point, everyone will be sitting in a Sion that has become better and better with feedback from the community - and it is my mission to help with that.
By now, we've talked a lot about Sono and your new role as an advisory board member. As someone who works in the industry as a software developer, we're curious to know: What do you think mobility will be like in ten years?
We will see a major transformation in the next few years. After cell phones, Silicon Valley has now discovered mobility - and especially electromobility - as a new playground. I think that more and more of the car will be digitized and thus migrate to the cloud. Thus, the car of tomorrow will have a "digital twin". This development will come with the advantage that things like traffic jam avoidance, parking fees, and even traffic planning as a whole could be completely re-imagined.
All this data will make it possible to predict vehicle failures even more precisely than today, well before a critical component actually breaks down. Today, there already are applications that show where someone has moved out of a parking space. In ten years, people will no longer have to search for a parking space in cities; the car will navigate the driver to the next available space - simply because the cloud knows exactly where which car is parked, and even where someone has just gotten in his car to leave.
Thanks to its interfaces, the Sion is on the right track to being optimally integrated in this new world of software defined vehicles. We will make sure that only data that is needed for this purpose is actually transmitted. By 2025 at the latest, I want a message to pop up in my car when I start driving, "do you want to take someone with you on your journey yes/no?". And in 2030, I want the car to tell me that I don't need to drive off myself because someone will come along in two minutes who can take me to my destination.
That's a close match of what you and we envision for the future. Thank you very much for this detailed discussion! Lastly, is there anything else you would like to say to us or the community?
Thank you for your confidence! In case anyone wants to reach out to me, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment at sono.community. From March on, reservation holders can share their location on a map on my website – of course, only if they like to do so. That way, we will have a concrete idea of where the community is located. I am looking forward to getting in touch with you!