@ Sono Motors GmbH

Maybe a unicorn tomorrow? The hottest startups in the mobility sector

Jan 27, 2021

Both mobility and the automotive industry are in the midst of a major transformation. More and more startups are attracting attention with new business models and technologies. Read Part 1 about the most promising young entrepreneurs.

Driven by a passion for a new mobility, hundreds of startups around the world are busily researching and experimenting. They develop new ideas and technologies, and therefore represent both competition and inspiration for the automotive sector. Here you can find an irrepressible pioneering spirit that will go to any lengths to launch new forms of mobility and innovative business models. Yet only the best ideas have a chance. A solution or a technology that fails the stress test will be abandoned sooner or later – for example if the project cannot be scaled up, or it becomes apparent that it’s not going to be successful. Below we present five hot candidates for the future.

Sono Motors @CES 2021.

Solar panels instead of paint: Sono Motors

The Munich startup Sono Motors has developed a manufacturing process for seamlessly integrating solar cells into the body panels of an electric car and other surfaces. The result is almost invisible, highly aesthetic, and comes with no loss of efficiency. Unlike conventional solar modules, the solar cells in the car’s bodywork are embedded in polymer instead of glass. They weigh less than half as much as conventional glass solar modules, so the Sion’s body panels weigh about the same as conventional panels. This truly innovative charging solution surpasses previous technical limits and opens up completely novel applications. The Sion is the first vehicle that simply charges up its battery from the sun. So every day up to 35 kilometers of additional range can be gained purely from solar energy… depending on the weather, of course. Production is scheduled to start in 2022.

Rethinking urban logistics: DroidDrive

Who has not seen roads congested with delivery vans from Hermes, DHL and co? The startup DroidDrive has the perfect solution for urban logistics. Its Ducktrain can cover the last mile with up to five light vehicles connected together in an intelligent platoon. Each “Duck” is one meter wide, 2.2 meters long and can travel on the roads, bicycle tracks or even the sidewalk. Once in the delivery area, the electrically powered train separates into individual Ducks. Each one accompanies a delivery person, bringing the parcels to their final destination. Other conceivable uses include meal services and local cargo deliveries. The first trials on closed areas are already under way. The young company is the latest startup associated with the RWTH Aachen University, following Streetscooter and e.GO Mobile.

Understatements about autonomous driving: Aurora Innovation

The supply startup Aurora comes from the hi-tech city of Mountain View in California’s Silicon Valley. The firm develops systems for autonomous driving and is already thought to be worth several billion US dollars. Aurora isn’t planning to build its own series vehicles. The company differs from its competitors in that it focuses principally on virtual tests. It uses computer simulations and data from real-world road tests to train its software and hardware. Manufacturers such as Fiat Chrysler, Byton and Hyundai are already partnering with the firm. While other providers keep on announcing grandly that “the technology will be ready soon,” Aurora has been cautious about making promises. It recently acquired the Advanced Technologies Group – the self-driving unit of Uber Technologies, the world’s largest ride-hailing platform. In return, the hi-tech corporation acquired a holding in the startup.

LiDAR for the mass market: Blickfeld

The Munich startup Blickfeld, founded in 2017, aims to develop autonomous technology for the mass market . It has come up with LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors for detecting a vehicle’s surrounding environment. That’s nothing new, but Blickfeld managed to simplify the LiDAR architecture and invent a sensor that was cheaper but more robust. Thanks to its reliable performance, an extended range of up to 250 meters, and distance measurements accurate to within a few centimeters, the system is able to recognize objects quickly. And solid-state technology has considerably reduced the price of these high-resolution 3-D sensors, making them perfect for a large number of applications such as autonomous navigation, HD mapping and people counting.

AirBnB for charging stations: MotionWerk

Startups don’t always have to come from the big cities or from Silicon Valley. MotionWerk, based in Essen, Germany, is aiming to establish a peer-to-peer network for e-charging stations, using Blockchain. It will bring together the owners of electric cars and private or commercial charging stations, e.g. supermarkets, restaurants or private households. Anyone who has a charging point can offer it to other EV drivers through the Share&Charge app at a price they see fit. This should provide access to charging stations that currently have free capacity, and enable the operators to actively support electric mobility and even to earn some money in the process. Bills will be settled securely and transparently using Blockchain technology.

The IAA 2021 will focus on innovative mobility in all its forms. Intelligent traffic solutions, visionary mindsets, automobiles and entire mobility chains. Everything that will shape the mobility of tomorrow and make it an experience. Be there!