Cleverly, Byton chose to pull the wraps off its car at the high-profile Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where tech-intensive vehicles like this arguably get more attention than they would at traditional auto shows.
Byton’s crossover concept doesn’t have a name, but from the outside it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Land Rover Range Rover Velar — a good starting point for a new company hoping to cater to buyers in search of a lifestyle as much as transportation.
Byton barely mentions its concept’s on-road performance, focusing instead on the user experience technology in the cabin. The entire dash is effectively one large screen — more than four feet wide! — that it calls a shared experience display, which the driver can use to share information with the car’s other occupants.
While that screen offers the expected touch controls, there are also a few physical buttons, voice recognition and gesture controls that let anyone in the car operate the infotainment system. The system will also connect with the apps on smart devices to allow anyone in the car to be productive or entertained en route.
Notably, there’s even a touchscreen display in the centre of the steering wheel.
A biometric identification system takes passive keyless entry to a new level, allowing a driver to unlock the car using facial recognition. Byton also uses facial recognition to load driver and passenger profiles once you’ve installed yourselves in the cabin. Those profiles are stored on the cloud so that even a shared car will let you get in and drive away with nothing but your face to tell it who you are.
A short video on Byton’s website shows exterior facial recognition cameras in the car’s B-pillar, a design whose functionality we can see being quite limited by common Canadian meteorological phenomena like snow and ice.
As we mentioned above, Byton is coy about details of its electric drivetrain, but says the car will travel as far as 520 km on a fully-charged battery, and that DC fast-charging will get a spent battery back up to 80 per cent in 30 minutes.
Byton says it designed the car around a flexible platform incorporating a battery enclosure that will allow its replacement with more modern, power-dense energy storage in the future, as the car ages.
Powertrain options will include 71 and 95 kWh battery capacities and single- and dual-motor layouts that Byton says will move the car from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in about five seconds.
Byton says that its car will sell for about US$45,000 at the promised 2019 Chinese launch. Will all the attention focused on EVs right now, Byton had better hope that’s a promise it can keep.