'Apple CEO confirmed the company has been working on an Apple car'
Startup Byton: electric cars aren't the innovation; connectivity, personal
tech features are
Dec 3, 2017 Sebastian Blanco
Teaser image of Byton electric SUV dash display and interior, to be launched
at CES 2018, Las Vegas
Electric-car startup Byton understands that the road to success is littered
with plenty of broken-down dreams.
The new EV company's executives, though, figure things are different now, to
the point that arriving a bit late to the party is actually a good thing.
Whether you're looking at Faraday Future or Lucid or Nio or Tesla, the
co-founders of Byton—former head of the BMW i8 program Carsten Breitfeld and
former managing director of Infiniti China Daniel Kirchert—don't want you to
think of Byton simply as another electric-vehicle startup.
At a media introduction day held Friday at Byton's new North American
headquarters in Santa Clara, California, most of the discussion centered on
the connectivity and consumer-friendly tech features of the company's
Not on its plug-in electric powertrain.
"We are definitely more inspired by Apple than by Tesla," said co-founder
and president Kirchert.
Headquarters of Byton electric-car company, Santa Clara, California
"We will focus more on the smart car part than the EV part," he explained.
"Making a good electric car is important, but we don't think in the future
that will be a big differentiator."
"The biggest mistake you can make as a new car company—and this is, in my
opinion, maybe why Faraday failed—is if you want to do too many things,"
"If you have a big dream and do everything at the same time, you will not be
successful. Focus on the product and get the product out. This is the first
step you have to achieve."
That's just what Byton is trying to do.
It was started two years ago after an energizing discussion between
Breitfeld and Kirchert (they knew each other because Kirchert had also
worked at BMW).
The company was originally called Future Mobility Company, letting it keep a
low profile and get things done before alerting the media and the public to
The name Byton, a play on "bytes on wheels," was announced during an event
in Shanghai this fall.
The company's first vehicle, an SUV, will be unveiled at the Consumer
Electronics Show in January, but a lot has been happening behind the scenes.
The company already has around 500 employees spread across three continents.
Alongside the R&D center in California, Byton's global headquarters are in
China and it has a design center in Munich, Germany.
The company has revealed only a few specs for its electric SUV at this
point. Both front- and all-wheel drive will be available, with a
150-kiolowatt motor up front and a 200-kw motor in the rear.
The Byton SUV will have two battery options, a 71-kilowatt-hour "entry pack"
that will offer around 200 miles or range, and a 95-kwh "extended pack" good
for around 310 miles.
The base model with FWD and the entry battery pack is projected to start at
$40,000 to $45,000.
We don't know exactly what it will look like, because the company didn't
show any completed vehicles during the press visit. We do know the
all-electric SUV will have an interior unlike any other vehicle on the road.
The cabin is dominated by a curved 49-inch touch screen (about 8 inches
tall) that stretches from door to door, with different sections available
for different uses, depending on whether the car is parked or, in the
future, in autonomous-drive mode.
The driver and passengers can interact with the screen using touch, voice,
or gesture controls.
"We completely shifted the focus and reinterpreted the DNA of the vehicle,"
said Byton's vice president of marketing, Henrik Wenders. (He, too, spent
time at BMW, 14 years in his case.)
At that company, he said, the focus is on sheer driving pleasure and the
driver's seat is the most important one in the vehicle. "I think this holds
true for the last 100 years," he said, "but for the next 100 years, it's
going to be different."
"In the next 100 years, it's not about drivers and passengers: It's about
users. Every single seat in a vehicle is going to be equally important."
That said, one of Byton's defining features will be a steering-wheel mounted
8-inch touch screen to provide the driver with another place to get
The company's cars will be connected to something called Byton Life, which
keeps your personal in-vehicle preferences—seating position, music,
contacts, calendar, etc.—to the cloud.
Whether you only share your vehicle with a partner or spouse, or with
hundreds of people through a car-sharing service, face-recognition cameras
will know who you are and make sure the car is set up just the way you want
Touches like this are part of what Byton representatives meant when they
said, many times during the day, that the car actually represents a
"next-generation smart device" instead of just a new car.
But a is car involved, of course. Three, actually, all built on the same
The premium mid-size SUV that the company will unveil in January at CES
2018 will go on sale the following year, starting in China, Byton says.
A sedan will follow in 2021, and then a European-style Multi-Purpose Vehicle
(small minivan) is to arrive in 2022.
All three vehicles will be built at the company's production facility in
Nanjing, China, which will have an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles when
Construction began in September 2017, and the total investment in the plant
is said to be $1.1 billion.
If Byton's timetable sounds a bit … short ... to you, Breitfeld's response
is to point to the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sport coupe.
That vehicle went from idea to reality within the giant corporate structure
at BMW in about 38 months, he said.
Through it, he first saw what is possible in the new electric-vehicle age.
That makes him more than comfortable rolling in fashionably late to the
global EV party.
freedomev • 16 minutes ago
I see little reason to have a connected car that can be hacked and outdated,
controlled by others plus more monthly fees, no thanks.
All the connectivity I need is in my cell phone or laptop that is already
paid for and easy to update. No need to duplicate that in the car too paying
Chris O • 41 minutes ago
Déjà vu, Faraday Future already did this very same "connectivity" sales
pitch over a year ago. Look where they are today...Seems to me that Tesla is
already doing all the things that this startup and FF before it claims will
set it apart from it. It's not going to be easy to find a unique approach at
this point in the EV game that would give a newcomer a real chance against
Tesla and the rest of the industry that's very busy developing it's own
plug-in line ups at this point ...
] ... [© 2017 Green Car Reports]
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