Many Australian electric vehicle enthusiasts or prospective EV owners may not have heard of Byton, but it may be time to take stock.
The fledgling automotive developer based in Nanjing, China, has just raised $US500 million (around $A660 million) in a Series B funding round, mostly from Chinese investors, with a view to continuing their progress in the development of an all-electric fleet ready for market by the end of 2019.
“The success of this funding round highlights how diversified strategic investors will further expand Byton’s circle of friends and broaden our development opportunities,” says Dr Daniel Kirchert, Byton’s president and co-founder.
“Byton is establishing a new benchmark for auto start-ups with four essential ‘must haves’, namely Technology, Product, Capital and Factory.”
With China leading the global EV market in terms of sales as well as stock – over half of global sales were in China in 2017, and 40 per cent of EV stock is also in China – Byton have placed themselves in the right place at the right time.
Co-founded by Kirchert and BMW’s Carsten Breitfeld under the name ‘Future Mobility Corporation’, the electric car startup announced in January 2017 that its first manufacturing facility would be built in Nanjing at a cost of $US1.7 billion.
It then presented its first all-electric concept SUV, the M-Byte, at CES2018 in Las Vegas.
The very futuristic vehicle, which featured a dazzling interior full-width, gesture-enabled touchscreen, was touted with a range of about 400km and a price tag of just under $A60,000 for the base model.
Now, they have followed up with their second offering: an all-electric concept sedan named K-Byte.
Right now, there’s more focus on futuristic concepts such as autonomy and connectivity as opposed to the specs of the zero-emissions technology, but we can say that the K-Byte will have a 520km in NEDC according to the company’s website.
As for charging time, drivers can expect a 30 minute charging time from 0-80%.
And while the number of Byton chargers currently available is exactly zero, there is always the possibility that they could partner with Tesla.
As Musk stated in 2014, “The intent of the Supercharger network is not to create a walled garden. Any other manufacturer that’s interested in using them, we’d be happy to accommodate.”
Either way, with 40 per cent of the globe’s 3 million electric cars on Chinese roads, Byton are sure to find their piece of the market.
“As a world leader in smart mobility, we aim to build Byton into a global premium brand with ‘China Root, Global Reach’ as the core of our development strategy,” Breitfeld says.
“By combining our expertise in R&D and traditional car-making with innovative Internet technologies, we aspire to pioneer a smart mobility revolution.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.