Innovative startup company Byton has bounced back with a brand new car concept, unveiled at CES Asia in Shanghai. The K-Byte is another exercise in cool lines and quirky tech thinking, much like its SUV predecessor. Billed as a premium sedan, the model will form another part of what Byton claims will be the theme for its product naming strategy, with the SUV design now morphing into the M-Byte Concept.
Styled by Byton’s Vice-President Benoit Jacob and his team, the new model encapsulates what the company calls its ‘New Semantics’ design philosophy. “Semantics is the study of the effect of signs. A vehicle design must trigger its intended effect in the individual facets as well as in its entirety,” explained Jacob during the company’s Byton Night, held just prior to the CES Asia event.
The K-Byte encompasses a three-box layout, is 4.95 metres long, 1.95 wide and 1.50 high and features a 3-metre wheelbase. It’s certainly dramatic from the front with the main focal point being the daytime driving lights that are arranged like a cluster of six diamonds. Around the back, an integrated taillight keeps thing simple but stylish. The windows and sunroof areas have also been increased in a bid to make the cockpit as well lit as possible. Byton’s blurb calls it a ‘generous greenhouse’, which sort of lets you know where they’re going with the thinking.
“New technologies such as electric drive or autonomous driving sensors are now considered new symbols and challenges in automotive design,” added Jacob. “The chrome grills, rubber spoilers and twin tailpipes, which I found great as a little boy, have long given way to other vehicle attributes such as sensors, cameras, or high-resolution displays.”
And, as you’d expect if you saw its first concept, Byton is very keen on all three of these things, which is a theme carried through to the K-Byte concept. Along with more dramatic design flourishes in the shape of Byton’s Smart Surfaces that deliver eye-catching light strips, there are integrated autonomous driving aids around the car. On the rooftop nestles a bow-shaped Byton LiBow integrated lidar system, and, similarly, on the side of the car there is the LiGuard side lidar system, just below a brace of side-view cameras.
On the point of autonomy, Byton executives say that they’ve been working with autonomous driving technology firm Aurora. The collaboration is primed to produce a fleet of prototype vehicles with L4 autonomous driving capabilities by the end of 2020. And, presumably, getting the car from A to B will come from the same powertrain setup as that specified for the SUV edition, with two all-electric options – the 71kwh battery pack with a 400km driving range and its four-wheel drive variant with a chunkier 95kwh battery that boasts a 520km range from a single charge.
At CES Asia the company was keen to underline its philosophy of remaining firmly at the cutting edge of technology. “The Byton name stands for Bytes on Wheels, reflects our digital brand essence, and is pronounced phonetically in a similar way across the globe. That was very important to us. The names of the individual models are derived from this and proudly carry Byte in their name, whilst also referring to our genes in the digital world,” said Henrik Wenders, Head of Marketing at Byton.
There’s a desire to offer other models in the range too. “M- and K-Byte will not remain the only Byton models,” added Wenders. “A family van has already been announced to follow the sedan, and further vehicle concepts are being planned.” Indeed, Byton has created their platform for just that purpose and the team hopes that they can develop a whole series of vehicles based around the core running gear. The SUV edition is set to start rolling off the production line at the end of 2019. The company reckons the sedan will follow in 2021.
In addition to its growing range of cars, Byton also plans up to 30 new brand stores across China, with the first one due to be opened in Shanghai before the end of the year. There’s also a Byton co-creator program being launched, which will let people dip in and get involved in the design process. They’ll be asked to provide their thoughts and feedback during research and development of new models with the aim of tailoring cars to suit the ever-changing market.
More importantly in the big scheme of things, a series B fundraising campaign has also been successfully completed. This means that Byton has another $500 million in the pot to get those new models moving off the production line of its Nanjing plant, which is currently under construction.