New electric tech savvy SUV is unveiled at CES

Konstantin Sheiko
January 25, 2018

Future Mobility Corporation is a Chinese automobile company established in 2016 and incorporated in Hong Kong, co-founded by former BMW and Nissan Motor executives. It announced its first proposed car under the new Byton marque in September 2017 and unveiled its first concept car to the public in January 2018. 

The company was co-founded by Carsten Breitfeld, CEO, and Daniel Kirchert, the president, successfully recruiting staff from a range of International companies, including senior specialists from the BMW and Tesla. Its tech center is in California, its design center is in Munich, and it is employing the latest and best Silicon Valley technology.

The company announced its ambition to launch three electric car models by 2022. The first announced is the mid-sized Byton SUV, so far only in concept form, with sales expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2019 in China, Europe, and the US. It was unveiled at the Consumer Electric Show in Las Vegas on 7 January 2018.

The new Byton model is showing a lot of promise. The future belongs to electric cars, and in this sense, the Chinese are surely on the right track. This car exudes the premium feel for the market and displays first-class technological gadgets, among them a huge (49-inches wide by 10-inches high) screen that actually ‘replaces’ your dashboard. It was a big hit at CES with a long queue of people waiting to see it. The investors have not been idle either. If the car becomes a commercial success, it might go ‘right-hand drive’ to explore premium British market, and hopefully, make a splash in Australia, or even Japan when it goes on sale in 2019.

According to the car critics that were lucky to have a first-hand experience with Byton, the car is approximately the size of Range Rover Velar. Some went as far as saying that “…Byton has not just thrown down the gauntlet to the likes of Tesla, but has taken it and slapped her rivals around the face”.

Byton’s interior is minimalistic, convenient and well organized. It might be described as “slightly generic”, but that's part of the deal. Byton has not set out to be at the avant-garde end of car design. Instead, it is taking more of milder approach, making a car that few will be offended to look at. Its nicely trimmed leather chairs can be electrically swivelled inwards for a chat with the driver if the passenger desires to do so.

The front seats can also turn to face the rear one when the car is in autonomous mode. The gesture control works using a finger to move a small circular cursor around on the screen before snapping fingers together to execute a command. As some observers have stated, it is the most intuitive and accurate gesture control system they have yet seen. There are phones on the door armrests.

And Byton has not stopped there – the steering wheel features a capacitive touchscreen, complete with the gear selection controls. Byton is adamant that, despite this, it can still package the airbag into the wheel, and have it break out in the event of a crash, without issue.

The Shared Experience Display is truly enormous but seems surprisingly intuitive for something so large. What’s even more important is that the quality of the screen and graphics is truly impressive. It gives the passengers an excellent opportunity to see all the driver’s information from the passenger seat, as well as having the options to fine-tune the infotainment that is provided through large displays attached to the rear of the front seats for rear passengers’ convenience.  

The driver can use the tablet-style touchscreen in front of the steering wheel to control direct functions, while voice control featuring Amazon Alexa could also be used to control the main display. However, slight concerns have been raised that a screen so large and illuminative might prove to be a distraction for some drivers, especially when they tired, or traveling at night. 

A panoramic glass roof added to the feeling of quality inside, with a combination of wood, leather, and metal making sure the Byton will compete with premium rivals. The electric platform means a flat floor and plenty of space for those in the back, and enabling the front seats to swivel, again controlled via the driver’s touchscreen.

Byton exhibits the trademark instant EV acceleration. It does not feel as fast as Tesla’s P100D, but it is certainly swift enough to make you smile as you accelerate. Apparently, the vehicle is able to make the sprint to 60mph in around five seconds. Unfortunately, Byton has only released power figures so far, and no performance data. The batteries and low center of gravity mean there will be no signs of body roll as you drive the vehicle.

The new Byton Concept SUV has a torque of 400/710 Nm, a range of 248 km/323 miles, power 200 kW, and a very competitive price of $45,000. The 22-inch wheels reinforce its powerful look and strong stance. Byton certainly offers a more tech-heavy experience than its competitors, and eventually, this should allow drivers to abandon the wheel and interact with the infotainment suite on offer, which they can do using touch, voice or gesture controls. 

The BBC reported that there are concerns over the charging infrastructure Byton will need to support its electric cars. The company has ambitions to enter into a partnership with Tesla, which has fast-charging stations in place around the world.

“It seems highly unlikely that Tesla will want to share the infrastructure they have worked so hard to build with a rival - unless there is some kind of altruistic view that it is for the greater good,” commented Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight told the BBC. “It underlines the challenges of electric vehicles. Building the cars is relatively simple these days, but you need everything that goes around it. Charging infrastructure, more than anything, is the challenge.”

That being said, Tesla has in the past been open to sharing its charging stations, and Byton is confident that it can overcome any charging road bumps. We’ll have to wait until the end of 2019, when the Byton cars are expected to hit the road en masse, to see if the company’s confidence pays off. But at least for now it seems that the Chinese corporation has hit the right formula having combined latest hi-tech research, top automotive expert advice, an environmentally sound approach, and an affordable price.