EV-maker Byton says its M-Byte will have a North American rollout in 2020. In case you’re not up to speed on who Byton is, they’re a Chinese all-electric vehicle automotive brand established in 2017 and incorporated in Hong Kong. The founder and CEO is Carsten Breitfeld, formerly of BMW, who brought the i8 to production. Byton’s president and co-founder is Daniel Kirchert, who brings sales and marketing experience from Infinity, BMW and the Chinese market.
By John Coulter, Current EV CMO
Byton's cars are designed for the age of shared mobility and autonomous driving, and are called “Next Generation Smart Devices.” The M-Byte will be the first of 3 vehicles the company is producing. All 3 models will use the same designed-solely-for-an-EV platform; have a choice between rear-wheel drive (with a single motor) or all-wheel drive (using dual motors); and be designed as “ride cars” rather than “performance cars.” They’ll be built of steel to keep down production costs, instead of expensive aluminum or carbon-fiber composites. All 3 vehicles will use CCS (Combo) DC Fast Charging.
One of Byton’s most remarkable startup accomplishments has been to create 3 brand new cars that use the same platform, from scratch, and have the first vehicle ready for market in 39 months. Says Byton chief engineer David Twohig, “That for any other carmaker would be damn quick; for a startup it would be damn quick; but for a company that didn’t exist at all three years ago, it’ll be impressive.”
Byton has its headquarters in Nanjing, China, with offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Its R&D center is in Silicon Valley and its primary design and concept center in Munich, Germany. In June of 2019, Byton secured a $500 million Series B-funding round from investors FAW Group, Tus-Holdings and CATL. The company has raised $850 million as well as loans and subsidies from China.
Byton announced at the CES 2019 in Las Vegas at the beginning of 2019 that the plant they’ve constructed in Nanjing, China will have a capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles per year. Manufacturing equipment in the factory is being supplied by AIDA Engineering of Japan, and KUKA and DÜRR of Germany. The company is also working with key strategic investors FAW and CATL, and suppliers Bosch, BOE, and Faurecia. The factory, built at a cost of US$1.7B, should be able to begin producing vehicles towards the end of the year, with cars potentially available in mid 2020.
When the M-Byte shows up in the U.S. (with a sales-and-service plan yet unannounced), it could slot into a competitive niche, costing tens of thousands less than alternatives from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Tesla and Porsche. M-Byte will have a starting MSRP of $45,000, which will make it highly desirable in an EV market that’s blossoming with luxury SUVs and SUVs.
Just like the Audi e-Tron, the M-Byte is aimed at all the growth areas of the car market; China, Europe and the USA will be key targets. But unlike the e-Tron, Byton is targeting a more accessible price, and believes it can generate the scale to draw comparisons to the Tesla Model 3. If the car’s MSRP remains at around $45,000 when it’s released, it will undercut many traditional luxury brands.
Byton’s idea of electric mobility is to take “a big step forward with a smaller environmental footprint.” Their concept of what an EV should be is contained in two opening sentences on their website: “Pleasing to the eyes, soft to the ears and relaxing to the mind and body: let your senses be moved, as you are moving. Incidentally, living your electric dream has never been so affordable either.”
The M-Byte 4-seat electric vehicle looks like a muscular hatchback, though Byton is calling it an SUV. M-Byte is a few inches longer than the smallish Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV, but the rest of its exterior dimensions are otherwise similar. Prototypes displayed at auto shows use 22” tires.
The EV will be offered with either rear- or all-wheel drive. The manufacturer has indicated there will be two available battery sizes — 71 kWh and 95 kWh — which should be good for 251 miles or around 323 miles per charge, respectively. In case you’re wondering, these capacities and ranges are competitive with the new Audi, Jaguar and Tesla SUV EVs. With fast DC charging, it will take only 30 minutes to charge M-Byte’s battery up to 80%.
M-Byte and its K-Byte sedan counterpart (to be debuted after 2020), will share a skateboard-like structure that locates the battery, suspension and powertrain components down below the passenger compartment. The new modular chassis configurations being created by automakers for their battery-powered vehicles are designed to accommodate the large battery components without compromising performance, safety, serviceability or comfort. With no driveshaft tunnel or ICE engine, interior cabin space in today’s EVs has dramatically increased. Such is the case with the M-Byte.
Auto designers are exploring new ground as they imagine the interiors of Next Gen cars created for shared mobility and autonomous driving. The signature feature of the M-Byte will be its 48-inch infotainment display, which works with a 7-inch steering-wheel-mounted touchpad and an 8-inch console-mounted touchpad. The display stretches the entire width of the dashboard – it’s the largest for any current production model.
Says Byton of its large-scale, interactive viewing monitor: “New interface. New experiences. Time is valuable. That’s why we want you to enjoy every second on the move. Our BYTON M-Byte brings a new kind of smartness to the world of mobility with a highly intuitive user interface, that’s revolutionizing the in-car experience.”
Concerning smart connectivity, Byton says it’s M-Byte will be “the fastest car on the data highway.” They explain: BYTON takes you to the forefront of connected mobility. Multiple modems and fully integrated flat antennas provide a bandwidth of up to 1000 Mbit/s. Onboard programmable SIM cards, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and shared connectivity maximize coverage and increase connectivity options. Your BYTON will be the fastest and most reliably connected vehicle on the data highway.”
It may cross your mind that with a car like this acting as an additional data network beyond your home or office, data security will become extremely important. Knowing this, Byton’s Security Lab has implemented new-generation encryptions and cutting-edge solutions for digitally securing info transmitted, stored (in the car or cloud) or received. “We take data protection very personally,” states the company on their website.
Byton has created an M-Byte cabin that’s a new kind of digital lounge on wheels. As the Byton website says: “WELCOME TO YOUR DIGITAL LOUNGE. Expand the scope of smartness. We focus on your need for seamless, simultaneous access to both your digital content and safe interactions – to design an interface that is entirely inspired by you. Giving your digital life the room it deserves, our BYTON Shared Experience Display is the largest screen ever fitted in a serial production vehicle.”
Both driver and front passenger can control all aspects of the M-Byte via touchpads that offer multi-gesture controls. Byton claims all its functions are government-regulated; meaning hazard lights and the gear selector still use physical controls. The car’s voice control system can be used to activate and operate many of the EV’s features.
When the car is parked, the front seats will have the ability to swivel towards each other to facilitate conversation. Rear seat occupants can use the car’s networked tablets, enabling them to play games or interface with the M-Bytes infotainment offerings.
Byton’s philosophy is simple: “Connect with technology to reconnect with life. Be electrified, stay connected, trust your intuition. It’s not only about technology. It’s about life.”