Byton Electric Car Prototype
BYTON: The 'Smart Phone' of Electric Cars
By Bill Moore
Carsten Breitfeld oversaw the development of BMW's i8 plug-in electric hybrid 'supercar'. Now he's taken the helm of creating a brand new car company called Byton with a mission statement: created the world's first 'smart phone' version of an "affordable" electric car
One thing you can say about the rEVolution, it's spurring lots of innovation, as well as competition. Think about it. When was the last time, prior to Tesla, a serious new car company emerged, or we saw real conceptual breakthroughs in personal transportation beyond minor tweaks to body shapes and the odd new bell & whistle.
Now, with the advent of three key technologies: global connectivity, autonomous, A.I.-assisted driving, and electrification of power trains, there has been a virtual flowering of enterprises large and small, from our own Quikbyke to self-flying "cars" (actually, human-carrying quadracopters).
One of the newest new EV car companies is Byton (formerly Future Mobility Company) that just inaugurated a news autonomous mobility R&D center in Santa Clara, California. Formed in 2012, its on track to debut its first electric cars on January 7th at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, hopefully without the embarrassing glitches that plagued Faraday Future, initiating their slide into a financial morass over the last 11 months.
At the helm of Byton is former BMW i8 program leaders Carsten Breitfeld. After twenty some years of immersion in the European auto industry, he saw in then FMC an opportunity to take the automobile to the next level, what he likes to refer to as the smart phone version of the electric car. He sat down with me, via Skype, from Santa Clara to talk about the company he leads and its goals, which not only include starting production of their first model, depicted in shadow above, at a new factory in Nanjing, China in 2019, but following on with two more models in subsequent years. Those will be a sedan and a MPV, multi-purpose vehicle. In Breitfeld's words, they will be "affordable," meaning in the Yuan 300,000 ($45,000US) price range, yet "premium" class automobiles with what will be the largest digital instrument display to appear on any vehicle, one that wraps across the entire dash, as pictured below. The car will come with ready-to-deploy Level 4 autonomous driving capability when local government regulations permit. And each will be capable of continuous G5 (1000Mb/s) connectivity
Come January 7th, we'll know more what the car looks like, but we already know that goal is an EV with 300 miles range, which if he and his team scattered from Nanjing to Santa Clara to Munich can pull it off, will give his former employer and theri Germany competitors heartburn. Time will tell.
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Originally published: 04 Dec 2017
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