BYTON opens North American HQ; next-gen smart EVs for shared mobility and autonomous driving; iPhone on wheels
BYTON, a China-headquartered automotive brand owned by Future Mobility Corporation, inaugurated its North American headquarters in Santa Clara, California last week, marking further progress in the company’s strategic effort to establish a global presence. BYTON aspires to build “affordable” premium intelligent EVs—smart devices on wheels—for the future. The company is focused more on the user experience of the connected environment in the car, rather than on eye-watering acceleration and road speeds of 250 km/h.
Key human-vehicle interface features include a 49-inch by 10-inch “coast-to-coast” screen, voice and gesture recognition and hand tracking, and a touch-screen steering wheel. The car also uses facial recognition to identify its drivers and passengers. BYTON also announced technology partnerships with Bosch and Faurecia toward realizing its vision.
BYTON will mainly work with Bosch on powertrain and braking systems. BYTON will work with Faurecia on the development and design of advanced interior technologies that takes advantage of the latest technologies in EV architecture, connected user interface and autonomous driving features.
BYTON’s first drivable concept car will make its debut at CES 2018 in January. In 2019, its first vehicle, a mid-sized electric SUV, will enter the market, followed by a sedan and then an MPV, all derived from the same basic platform.
BYTON derives its name from the phrase “Bytes on Wheels,” with “Bytes” representing the internet and “Wheels” symbolizing automobiles.
The powertrain basics. At a workshop at BYTON’s headquarters in Santa Clara, Dr. Dirk Abendroth, VP powertrain and autonomous driving, ran through a basic outline of the powertrain platform, developed in partnership with Bosch. BYTON owns the vehicle functions, the battery pack assembly and the battery management system. BYTON is cooperating with Bosch, leveraging economies of scale across multiple customers.
The basic skateboard battery pack has 71 kWh capacity, with a projected range of 350 km (217 miles). An expanded 95 kWh pack can take that up to 500 km (311 miles). The BYTON vehicles will offer rear-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations. The RWD system will use a 200 kW motor; AWD adds a second 150 kW to the front.
BYTON is using prismatic cells, but the pack architecture can support pouch cells or even cylindrical cells if necessary.
Autonomous driving. Time to market is key and affordability to key for BYTON, said Dr. Abendroth. While BYTON will enable the deliver of autonomous driving (AD) and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) on its platform, the company is won’t have Level 4 functionality at launch in 2019, he said.
BYTON will offer a full suite of safety-oriented ADAS applications and Level 3 AD functionality on day one, and then gradually add increasing AD functionality. BYTON is partnering with a leading L4 technology provider on a technology project, Dr. Abendroth added.
Electronic architecture. As an “iPhone on wheels”, BYTON is extremely sensitive to the design of its electronic architecture, its ECUs and data communication.
Seeing what kind of standards we need for communication to the central controller is pretty easy. We know the character of the data coming in from the radar, from the LiDAR from the camera, it’s kind of foreseeable what kind of data rate will come out. We just need to have enough ports on the ECU.
A bigger question is how much computing power and memory we need. Whatever ECU and memory you put in development is gone halfway on the way to series production. It’s gone. It will always be used. But I don’t need to tell you how much I need. What I need to protect for is space. I need to be able to make the ECU grow accordingly. We have four different computers on our roadmap, but the entire roadmap is prepared for the biggest one.
Customers don’t pay us for being able to drive 250 km/h [155 mph] on a road. I’m German, and I used to do that, but I’m not very representative of the rest of the world. You can’t. So why spend lots of money and weight and cost and a braking system and a cooling system to support that type of driving? Why not save money there and put it into an on-board Ethernet and a communication gateway?—Dr. Abendroth
HMI and the iPhone on wheels. One of the clearest visual indicators of BYTON’s focus is the “coast-to-coast” display that spans the dashboard. CEO Dr. Carsten Breitfeld said that BYTON intends for this screen to provide a shared experience for everyone in car.
Separate smaller screens—one for the driver in the steering wheel, others for passengers in the back—will deliver individual digital experiences.
We think that this approach is very revolutionary. We will have touch operations for the small screen and there will be advanced voice control and gesture control for the larger screen. Doing so will give us access to a lot of business opportunity. It is not only producing a car, it is a base. It will be about car sharing, ride sharing, parking services, vehicle management. It is designed to capture myriad mobility opportunities.—Dr. Carsten Breitfeld
BYTON will announce further partnerships in the HMI and mobility arenas at CES in January.
Production and sales. The new Silicon Valley center is focused on autonomous driving and user experience, but BYTON’s global headquarters, R&D center and manufacturing base is in Nanjing. (The R&D center responsible for the design of prototype and concept models is based in Munich, Germany. ) The company is building its plant in Nanjing, with start of production slated for 2019, said Dr. Daniel Kirchert, President and, with Dr. Breitfeld, one of the co-founders of the company.
The plant is designed to ramp to 300,000 units; the first phase for 2019 will have 100,000-unit capacity. “We think that is an ideal size to achieve quality,” said Dr. Kirchert. Total investment in the plant is $1.1 billion.
BYTON expects China to be its main market, said Dr. Kirchert, with around half of the business. BYTON expects the US to account for 30% and Europe for the other 20%. BYTON will use a direct sales model. The company is shooting for a price point of around US$40,000 to $42,000.
BYTON hosted Green Car Congress at its Santa Clara event.