Byton’s Concept Car Steals the Show at CES 2018
One of the most exciting concepts showcased in this year’s Consumer Electronics Show was the concept car from Byton. You’d be forgiven for not knowing the name. It is a Chinese-backed electric car start-up founded by Dr Carsten Breitfeld and Dr Daniel Kirchert.
Dr Breitfeld is a world-renowned expert in electro-mobility with a PhD in mechanical engineering. He spent 20 years at BMW, leading engineering divisions in chassis and powertrain developments, and corporate strategy. He was the head honcho that spearheaded the BMW i8. Dr Daniel Kirchert was the Head of Infiniti, China Operations, at Nissan Motor and was Senior Vice President of Sales at BMW Brilliance Automotive. With the co-founders having these credentials, it would be somewhat safe to assume that Byton is on the right path.
The SUV, which has no name as of yet, has a gargantuan 49-inch curved interactive display screen on the dashboard called Shared Experience Display, and that massive screen was the most talked about feature of the car. Even the steering wheel has its own 8-inch screen embedded for the driver!
There are two displays in the front-seat headrests, too, giving passengers access to a range of entertainment, cabin control and infotainment options.
The front seats swivel 12 degrees towards the center of the car to allow passengers to chat when the vehicle is in autonomous mode, and the seats have in-built sensors to track heart rate and weight.
“Your Byton will be the first vehicle that functions like a wearable,” said Kirchet. The four main areas addressed by the design are: communication, navigation, entertainment and health.
The vehicle has discarded the side mirrors and incorporated hidden door handles, which the company feels is the way forward. (In reality, regulators will probably require side mirrors on cars as a safety precaution.)
The battery, Byton says, can be fast-charged to 80 percent in 30 minutes, and it will come with single or dual motors, just like Tesla cars. Two battery capacities will be available as option: 71 kWh, good for 250 miles of range, and 95 kWh, able to cover 325 miles. The car will also be offered in rear-wheel- or four-wheel-drive, making four potential combinations.
Everything from cabin lighting, to accents, to the massive overhead panoramic glass window feels top-notch and luxurious, even though this particular demo car was built from scratch in basically eight months. A narrowing glass line and blacked out C-pillar give the currently popular “floating roof” look.
It will come with three 4G modems for cellular data. As 5G infrastructure rolls out, Byton will upgrade those modems to 5G at its service centers.
In order to keep the car secure, it will implement what it calls a Smart Gateway, which analyzes all data traffic coming into the car to make sure any updates are digitally signed. In addition, Byton will run its own cloud, where it will store car information and driver profiles.
The car is still a concept, but every feature on it exudes technological brilliance and about 70% of it works properly, and the manufacturer is in the process of getting the rest right. Still, it has a long way to go before it is actually ready to be sold, even though Byton is aiming to ship a production version by 2019.
With only US$240 million in funding so far, it’ll take a lot more than that to produce an EV at scale, especially as Byton hopes to build 100,000 electric cars per year. A rather big ask. But if all goes as planned, it will first be offered in China next year before moving to the U.S. and Europe in 2020. Pricing will start at US$45,000.
Here’s a vid of the car from Byton: