Prototypes will hit the road in the U.S. and China
Things appear to be falling into place for the Byton brand, one of a number of electric vehicle startups with its roots in China that have arisen over the past few years. At its headquarters in Nanjing, China, workers have just completed building its first 10 prototypes of its M-Byte all-electric SUV, and road testing is about to get underway. Another 100 pre-production vehicles should be built by the end of the year,
This initial fleet arrives none too soon. Scheduled to officially launch in late 2019, the timeline remains tight. Besides all the various tests and validation of its engineering and design, there is still a factory to equip and prepare for serial production. Its CEO, Carsten Breitfeld, doesn't seem flustered by the task ahead, however. He told the scribes at Autocar:
The development of the BYTON M-Byte is progressing extremely well, with everything on track. In recent months we have already successfully completed crash and stability tests with the initial set of prototypes – now the first prototypes are being road tested. The team’s pace and motivation is incredible.
With an annual run rate of 150,000 units a year penciled in as a starting point, we can't say the company isn't ambitious. And this M-Byte is just the first of several vehicles planned. They revealed a non-traditional sedan, the K-Byte, back in June as well.
Byton, which showed off its two future models at Monterey Car Week, will be shipping at least some of these early vehicles to its U.S. autonomy partner Aurora. With its image constructed around the concept of its vehicles being computers on wheels, the car-sharing autonomous theme is an important piece of the puzzle.
Don't look for self-driving ability any time soon, though. According to TechCrunch, although they will be testing level 4 systems (full self-driving) as early as this year, it will initially ship with level 2 systems, similar to what other brands offer today.
Though, as we said, it has it roots in the People's Republic, the company intends to be an international player. While initial sales are planned for China in 2019, the outfit, which has offices in the U.S. and Germany, has mid-2020 circled on its calendar for sales Stateside and in Europe.