The Byton isn’t small. Its wheelbase is 116 inches long, which puts it between an E-Class and S-Class. Inside it’s 77 inches wide, which makes it about the width of an Audi A7. Call it a large, mid-size vehicle with crossover proportions.
The front and rear overhangs were designed around crash standards, not for the powertrain, according to Byton. One aerodynamic feature Byton was quick to tout is the buttress in the D-pillar for aerodynamics, a feature usually found on supercars. While trivial in the overall scheme of things, it is cool to see such a thing on a vehicle like this.
Two battery sizes will be offered. Base cars will have energy supplied by a 71-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery providing about 200 miles of range. Those wanting more range will be able to opt for a 95-kwh lithium-ion battery pack, which ups range to about 310 miles on a full charge.
How will you buy a Byton? The Chinese automaker isn’t ready to talk distribution or sales yet, but it plans on both private party sales and fleeting sharing sales models.
Things start getting murky
Everything so far seems reasonable in terms of the basics and nitty gritty, but dig deeper and things start seeming a little pie-in-the-sky.
Byton told us its vehicle should meet or beat vehicle crash standards in 2022, but we're not sure what those standards will be—they're still a few years out, after all.
Things get even weirder when it comes to charging times. The Chinese startup told Motor Authority its first vehicle will be compatible with all current standards such as SAE J1772, CCS1 combo, IEC standard, CCS2 combo, GBT for China, and the like. This is pretty standard, but where things get fishy is when they say the vehicle will be capable of charging 250 miles of range into its battery pack in 30 minutes on a CCS1 combo fast-charger. The issue is that may not be possible today.
John Voelcker, editor of Green Car Reports, breaks down the math on how that would be difficult: 4 miles of range from 1 kwh is ambitious, but possible. Current CCS charging stations offer 50 kw of flowing electrons. That means for 30 minutes of charging at a 50-kw station, you'd get 25-kwh, multiplied by 4 miles per kwh, and that figure lands around 100 miles. Europe offers 100-kw CCS charging stations that could roughly bump that range up to 200 miles for 30 minutes of charge, but what Byton is probably referring to is 150-kw CCS fast-chargers that just aren't here yet.
Byton says its cars will be upgradeable—hardware, software, security, the whole thing. When asked how that would work, they couldn't answer that question.
The entirety of the buying into Byton is what is being dubbed as "Byton Life."
You have a Byton ID that stores all your data, preferences—basically entire life—in the cloud. It downloads to any Byton vehicle you use, yours or a shared fleet car, and it knows where you need to be and your most recent blood pressure readings from your smartwatch.
Byton Life will even recognize if you’ve had a busy day and suggest you do a mediation session while your Byton drives you to your next destination.
This Byton ID connects with all your data, and while Byton said it’ll work on current 3G and 4G networks, it’s already planning for 5G for faster data speeds.
If this sounds like the future you were hoping for I have great news: There’s a Chinese startup looking to deliver it in 2019 in China, and 2020 in the U.S. and Europe.
The future is coming, but it’s still in very beta form today.