Startup Byton: electric cars aren't the innovation; connectivity, personal tech features are


Teaser image of Byton electric SUV to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Enlarge Photo

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.

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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 upcoming SUV.

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

Headquarters of Byton electric-car company, Santa Clara, California

Enlarge Photo

"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," Breitfeld said.

"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."

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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 its plans.

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Enlarge Photo

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.

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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-kilowatt 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.

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV dash display and interior, to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Teaser image of Byton electric SUV dash display and interior, to be launched at CES 2018, Las Vegas

Enlarge Photo

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.


 
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