Doing change – the story of Sonomotors

By Jona Christians, June 2020

Former Waldorf pupils develop an innovative electric car, set up a startup company and seek a new way of community funding.

Photo: © SonoMotors

During the time I attended the Munich-Schwabing Waldorf School, I learnt four main things:

  • The ability to develop something myself and create something new, not just in the practical and artistic subjects. To overcome the reluctance to take charge of things myself.
  • The value of going through thick and thin with friends from class 1 to the school leaving exams and following their development with respect. We learnt to support and learn from one another. This allowed a deep friendship with my co-founder Laurin Hahn to arise over thirteen years. 
  • To scrutinise things, use leeways, and in individual project work, such as the year projects, concern myself with subjects which really motivate me.
  • Lastly, the most important lesson from the class plays: that when people come together, the impossible can be made possible.

It was May 2013, shortly after we finished school, that I started working with Laurin on how we could turn sustainable mobility into reality. The first step for us was to develop an alternative for vehicles with an internal combustion engine which was suitable for everyday use and inexpensive. The result was a family-friendly and affordable electric car which can generate a part of its electricity requirement itself through integrated solar cells. The Sion.

When we had developed the first drivable prototype, Navina Pernsteiner joined us and contributed ideas and concepts for corporate design and identity. Then, in 2016, we founded Sono Motors GmbH in Munich together.

Starting a new car manufacturer – that sounded absolutely utopian. And yet we had no choice but to take on this task ourselves. We did not want to wait any longer or wait for someone else to do something. Within three years, our team had grown to 100 people. We built further prototypes, completed 13,000 test runs in the whole of Europe and found a production site in the former SAAB factory in Sweden. And today, barely four years after we started up, the step to the realisation of our vision – sustainable mobility for all – is within reach.

We had reached a point with our enterprise at which we had to decide: do we remain true to our values and goals or do we give them up in favour of the interests of financial investors? We decided for the former. 

The refusal to go the classic route of finance from large-scale investors meant that we had to choose a new path to raise the necessary financial resources to take us to series production. And that is precisely what we have done in that we want to hand the decision about how things are to continue with the car to the people who not only enabled us to get this far at all but also continue to support us. We have put all the profit entitlements available to us in a community pool in order to make the profit distribution more social in future.

But this new path is anything but easy. No one has gone this way before in the automotive industry. And we cannot go it alone.

We are now looking for supporters who together with us want to take concrete steps to shape and move forward the development of a joint company and thereby the transformation to sustainable mobility.

“Learn to change the world” – this motto was coined last year for the hundredth anniversary celebrations of the Waldorf schools. I was able to make this motto my own during my time at school. With our company we want to change the world, jointly with the many people who in our time – characterised as it is by ecological and social challenges – together want to make the apparently impossible possible.

About the author: Jona Christians (26) is the co-founder of Sono Motors, an electric car startup from Munich, and former Waldorf pupil. www.sonomotors.com

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