Byton electric SUV promised for 2019 with $45K starting price, loads of tech

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Chinese electric car startup Byton on Sunday unveiled a concept model previewing a fully connected electric SUV promised for launch in 2019 with a starting price of about $45,000.

Byton is pitching its SUV as a smartphone on wheels, essentially making it a “smartcar.” Any company can build an electric car but Byton wants to redefine connectivity and mobility as we know it.

That’s because the company sees a future where technology replaces horsepower as one of the primary attractions for new car buyers. Byton President and co-founder Daniel Kirchert, a former BMW executive, has stated he’s "more inspired by Apple than by Tesla."

In Byton’s SUV, the traditional dash is replaced by a 49-inch long digital screen that spans the width of the cabin. This is the main way the driver and front passenger interact with the vehicle. With it, you can interact via gesture control or voice. Byton’s SUV also integrates Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant and all the skills that come with it. On top of this, there’s artificial intelligence that over time gets to know all of your preferences. It is even able to recognize you via facial recognition. It means you will no longer need to carry a key.

And tech features on Byton’s SUV will be upgradable, both the software and hardware. This will primarily be for self-driving technology. Byton says the SUV will launch with Level 3 self-driving capability but will be capable of Level 4 in 2020. Level 3 means a car can drive on its own in select conditions but requires a driver to be ready to take back control at a moment’s notice. Level 4 means a car drive on its own in select conditions for extended periods of time. A Level 4 car is also capable of coming to a safe stop should a driver fail to take back control when required.

As for mechanical specs, Byton announced last year its SUV will feature a 201-horsepower electric motor at the front axle and a 268-hp motor at the rear. A 71-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery will feature in the entry-level model, while a 95-kwh battery will be available. The former should produce a range of around 200 miles, while the latter will provide enough juice for around 310 miles, per Byton. Thanks to high-speed charging, owners will be able to add 150 miles of range in 20 minutes and 80 percent of charge in 30 minutes.

Space in the cabin is generous thanks to efficient packaging and a long 116-inch wheelbase. Inviting color concepts, luxury materials and traditional craftsmanship blend with flair to give a bespoke lounge feel. All seats are designed to be individually adjustable and the front seats can even rotate, which will be a first if it makes it to production. Sidepods under the armrest of the front seats provide storage space.

Byton’s headquarters are located in Nanjing, China. It’s where the company is also constructing a plant that will be operational in 2019. The company plans to launch a production version of the SUV concept in China by late 2019. Sales in Europe and the United States are planned for 2020.

While Europe and America have primarily shaped the automotive landscape during the 20th century, it could very well be that China along with the rest of Asia does so for the 21st century. After all, we’ve seen a flood of new car brands either hailing from China or backed by Chinese investors, and if even a fraction of these end up successful they’ll be a substantial force in the industry. Some of the more prominent startups are Detroit Electric, Lucid, NEVS, Nio and of course Faraday Future.

Byton’s SUV concept is on display at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. For more coverage on the show, head to our dedicated hub.

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