Byton M-Byte

Style

The Byton M-Byte is a legit crossover utlity—in the sense that it looks like either an upsized hatchback or a low-to-the-ground SUV. It has a long hood, high waistline with narrow windows, and raked hatch window at the tail.

Byton’s chief designer, Benoit Jacob, who previously designed the BMW i3 and i8, was primarily aiming for accessibility. He de-emphasized a sense of performance and instead tried to convey a refined piece of high-tech gear. In interviews, he explained that the M-Byte’s signature traits are connectivity and autonomy. Nonetheless, the M-Byte rolls on 22-inch tires, lending a muscular feel to the vehicle.

At 191 inches in length, it’s three inches shorter than a BMW X5. Compared to similar electric offerings, the Tesla Model X and Audi e-tron are seven and two inches longer respectively. The M-Byte is substantially bigger than the Bolt, Kona Electric, and Niro EV—vehicles that are sometimes described as SUVs but are more like high-riding compact hatches.

Performance

The M-Byte is not built for speed. Its 270-horsepower rear-wheel-mounted motor is just fast enough to make the SUV capable on highways. At some point, a second variant will add a 204-horsepower motor up front to deliver more performance and all-wheel-drive handling. But Byton has no intention of competing with Tesla and others who aim for lightning-fast, supercar-like acceleration.

Instead, Byton wants the M-Byte to be a comfortable, mobile living room or workspace. Byton is partnering with Aurora Innovation, led by vehicle-autonomy pioneer Chris Urmson, to allow the M-Byte to fully drive on its own in many roadway conditions—although the driver behind the wheel needs to stay ready to take over.

Byton’s second model, the K-Byte sedan, is expected to push the level of autonomy even further when it arrives around 2021.

Byton M-Byte

Efficiency/Range

The base-level M-Byte, for around $45,000, will go about 250 miles on a single charge. It will carry a 71 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

There will be a second 95-kWh version estimated to deliver as much as 320 miles in range.

These two options will make the Byton M-Byte competitive with other luxury models from Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla.

Charging

The M-Byte will use state-of-the-art charging technology to allow public quick-charging from zero to about 80 percent in around 30 minutes. That suggests a DC charging rate of 150 kilowatts or higher. Obviously, the version with the bigger battery pack will take longer to fully charge.

Specs for the onboard charger (for daily home refueling) are expected to be on par with the competition. You can assume charging via a 240-volt charging station will add about 25 to 30 miles per hour.

As with the M-Byte’s exterior design, range capabilities, and performance levels, Byton is not trying to push the envelope on charging speeds. The company’s focus is to innovate in terms of making the vehicle a highly connected and mobile device.

Passenger/Cargo Room

The most revealing feature of the M-Byte’s interior is front seats that swivel 12 degrees toward each other for easier chatting between passengers when the car is parked. That speaks volumes about Byton’s focus on communications and human interaction in the vehicle rather than the traditional transportation functions of an automobile.

Byton remains committed to using a massive 48-inch curved dashboard-mounted screen to display vehicle and battery information—and to deliver robust navigation, connectivity, and infotainment. The screen is as wide as seven iPads put side by side. Byton says that it’s the largest in-car display for any production automobile.

There’s an additional seven-inch display mounted in the center of the steering wheel. This smaller tablet remains upright even as the steering wheel turns. It functions as driver-oriented controls for the four-foot-wide screen that dominates the dashboard—somewhat similar to buttons on a conventional steering wheel.

Byton M-Byte

Byton also plans to offer advanced hand-gesture and voice-activated commands. The company is expected to use Amazon’s Alexa as its built-in voice assistant. Commands will be automatically personalized for different drivers via facial recognition.

Some reviewers question if so many screens and tech communications will distract drivers’ attention away from the road. Byton insists that safety (including meeting all governmental regulations) is paramount. Drivers will use physical buttons to select gears and turn on hazard lights.

Byton wants the car to become a connected device, augmenting what your smartphone provides in terms of navigation, calendars, shopping reminders, and alerts about range and charging. Personal bio-data, including your weight measured by the seat, will sync up with health info from wearable devices.

Be aware that Byton hopes to somehow turn your data into a revenue stream.

Byton M-Byte

Price

As of this writing, we are still a year-and-a-half away from the M-Byte going on sale in the United States. Therefore, the projected $45,000 base price for the 250-mile version is subject to change. Pricing has not been announced for the 300-plus mile variant.

Byton claims to have received more than 50,000 pre-orders from across the globe. Its website continues to take reservations.

Byton has not yet settled on a go-to-market strategy, such as direct online sales versus opening dealerships, store-like galleries, or other retail environments.

Nonetheless, Byton aims to reach a production capacity of about 100,000 to 150,000 vehicles a year by around 2022.

Byton M-Byte specifications

Availability: 2020
Base MSRP: $45000
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: SUV
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 250 miles pure electric
Battery size: 71 kWh
Charging rate: 7.2 kW

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