Sony begins testing its electric car concept on public roads

This image, taken in Tokyo, Japan on August 7th 2020, shows a prototype of Sony’s Vision-S electric vehicle.

Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sony has started testing its Vision-S electric car on public roads, with the Japanese tech giant stating that the development of the prototype vehicle has “reached the next stage.”

In an announcement made at the tech event CES 2021 this week, the firm said testing of the vehicle began in Austria last month for what it described as “technical evaluation” as it looks to improve its safety.

Looking ahead, Sony says it plans to continue development work on the vehicle and carry out tests in other regions.

According to the business, two 200 kilowatt motors — located at its front and rear — power the four-seater car, which weighs 5,180 pounds, or 2,350 kilograms. The vehicle uses 40 sensors to monitor safety and undertake a range of tasks such as autonomous parking.

Given that the vehicle is only a prototype, and Sony is not known for making cars, it remains to be seen what the company’s overarching plans for the Vision-S are.

On a website outlining the project and its specifications, it describes both the content and prototype vehicle as being “intended to illustrate our future concepts in the area of mobility.”

Sony has, however, worked with some significant players on the project. These include vehicle manufacturer Magna Steyr.

Indeed, in another video published by Sony on Monday, Frank Klein, the president of Magna Steyr, described the Vision-S as “just the starting point of our joint cooperation.”

Sony’s foray into mobility comes at a time when established players in the sector are looking to ramp up their electric vehicle offerings and challenge Elon Musk’s Tesla, which delivered 499,550 vehicles in 2020.

On Tuesday, the Volkswagen Group said its Volkswagen Passenger Cars brand had sold almost 134,000 battery electric vehicles in 2020, up from 45,117 in 2019. In addition, it also sold 78,000 plug-in hybrids last year, compared to 37,053 in 2019. To put these figures into some sort of perspective, Tesla says it delivered 180,570 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2020. 

In a statement, Ralf Brandstätter, the CEO of Volkswagen Passenger Cars, was bullish on the company’s prospects going forward. “We are well on track to achieve our aim of becoming the market leader in battery electric vehicles,” he said.

In a sign of how things are changing, last week saw the CEO of Daimler emphasize the importance of low-emission technologies and innovation.

Speaking to CNBC’s Annette Weisbach, Ola Källenius said the automotive industry was “in the middle of a transformation.”

“Next to the things that we know well — to build, frankly, the world’s most desirable cars — there are two technological trends that we’re doubling down on: electrification and digitization,” he added.

Källenius’ comments came on the same day Daimler announced its Mercedes-Benz Cars division had sold over 160,000 plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles in 2020.

Source: CNBC