Byton M-Byte electric SUV prototype
Chinese electric-car startup automaker Byton has begun testing its upcoming M-Byte electric car in China, the company said Tuesday.
The company introduced the car at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, and gave reporters rides to demonstrate its self-driving and electronics capabilities.
Byton said Tuesday that it had begun real-world tests, driving a prototype of the car on public roads in Nanjing, China.
Other tests are ongoing on private test tracks, the company says, and cold weather tests are scheduled for this winter.
Unlike other electric-car startups that are targeting the high end of the market, such as Faraday Future with its $300,000-plus FF91, Byton said that it plans to sell the M-Byte in the heart of the luxury SUV market starting at $45,000.
The company said the car will offer two battery-pack options. A 71-kwh version with 249 miles of range will include a 250-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels.
Byton concept first ride
A higher-end model with a 91-kwh battery should deliver 323 miles and have up to 470 horsepower, perhaps from a second electric motor driving the front wheels.
The M-Byte features a 49-inch curved digital dashboard screen that stretches across the car to provide instrumentation for the driver as well as entertainment options for the passenger.
The digital interface will include Amazon Alexa with facial recognition in place of a physical key to start and enter the vehicle. Byton says it will learn the driver's voice, language, and preferences over time.
The car is also set to include Level 3 self-driving capability, which will allow it to drive itself in most situations but require the driver to take over on short notice when the car sounds an alarm. Level 4 "geo-fenced" highway self-driving capability will arrive a year later, Byton says.
The company revealed a second model, the K-Byte sedan, in June, which will follow the M-Byte.
The M-Byte is scheduled to launch in China in 2019 and to go on sale in the U.S. and Europe in 2020.