Byton's massive screen lives on in production version of electric SUV

By DPA | 12 September 2019

FRANKFURT: The Chinese electric car company Byton has brought its first car to the series production finishing line, unveiling its electric SUV with a unique, giant display in the cockpit.

On display at the Sept 12-22 Frankfurt car show, the M-Byte SUV is set to roll out to its first customers in China in mid-2020, Byton boss Daniel Kirchert says. The US and Europe will follow in the first half of 2021.

Deliveries are expected to start three months later than originally planned, but the company said the car will now be launched in Europe at the same time as the US and not afterwards.

"This has nothing to do with the trade dispute, but we can see that thing's are really happening in Europe now," Kirchert says. That was not foreseeable two or three years ago, he says.

In the US, Byton is currently set to be hit by an additional tariff of 30 per cent, but even if this is still the case in 2021, Byton says it will stick to its planned market entry.

This would result in fewer vehicles being sold, "but the product would still have a market, even with the higher price." The M byte is set to cost €45,000 (RM207,000) in Europe before VAT.

Byton is one of several new suppliers who are benefiting from the switch to electromobility. The company received a lot of attention right from the start, both because it was founded by ex-BMW managers and for its unusual interior concept.

The central display with a massive diagonal of 48 inches practically reaches from door to door, and has managed to survive from prototype to production model.

Maintaining the screen is an impressive feat, since eye-catching features like this are often lost on the way from the concept car to the final model.

The touchscreen in the steering wheel, however, was forced to shrink from seven to eight inches to make room for the airbag.

The left side of the large display, which shows key information for the driver, runs on the QNX operating system, which is often used in cars because of its stability.

The right side, with navigation and infotainment controls, is run with the open source version of Google's operating system Android for cars.

Byton has no plans to support Google and Apple's smartphone connectivity platforms - Android Auto and CarPlay. The screen size would cause resolution problems, digital systems manager Jeff Chung says. That's why the company needs to rely on special versions of apps for its cars.

Byton says it hopes to hit a production target of 100,000 cars per year, and its plant in China is designed to produce a total of 300,000 vehicles.

In view of the trade conflict, Byton is also considering manufacturing in the US, but no steps have yet been taken in this direction, Kirchert said.