Chinese brand Byton has revealed its second concept car: an electric saloon capable of level four autonomous driving that will go on sale in the UK within the next four years.
The firm has also announced its naming strategy. Byton’s first model, the previously unveiled electric SUV, is called the M-Byte. The K-Byte saloon, based on this concept, will follow. It will be launched in China first, due to the popularity of saloons there.
Both will be built on the same architecture and will eventually be joined by a seven-seat MPV.
The naming structure is an evolution of the brand name, which stands for Bytes on Wheels.
While the production version of the M-Byte SUV has been revealed, the K-Byte is purely at the concept stage.
Unveiled at CES Asia in Shanghai, the 4.95m-long saloon incorporates the sensors and cameras that are synonymous with autonomous driving into its design, with LIDAR built into the A-pillars and centrally positioned on the roof to allow level four autonomy.
“You don’t have to hide sensors, but can definitely stage them,” Byton chief designer Benoit Jacob explained. “This will ensure that the saloon concept is suitable for the future.”
The concept also features the same 'Smart Surface' animated front grille, dashboard-filling touchscreen and steering wheel-integrated tablet as the SUV, which is set to rival the Jaguar I-Pace when it arrives in 2019.
Byton CEO Carsten Breitfeld called the K-Byte an “outstanding new interpretation” of the saloon that proves the company is ready for volume production.
“If you do an SUV first and then are able to show a sedan on the same platform, you really understand how to use platform technology,” he said.
Powertrains and battery range have yet to be confirmed, but the K-Byte is likely to get the same options as the M-Byte: a 268bhp electric motor driving the rear axle, and a 468bhp version with a motor powering each axle to provide four-wheel drive. This would give it more power than both the Jaguar I-Pace and Tesla Model X 90D, although Breitfeld insists that performance "is not the differentiation factor for our brand".
In the SUV, lithium ion batteries provide up to 248 miles of range in low-power guise and up to 323 miles in the top model.
This is the second time Byton has used a technology event to announce a concept, having announced the SUV concept at CES in Las Vegas back in January. The CES Asia event in Shanghai isn't far from the company’s newly opened Nanjing headquarters and manufacturing facility, which will soon be capable of producing around 300,000 vehicles a year.
The company also has a design centre in Munich and a software development office in Silicon Valley.
Byton recently secured a further $500 million (£374m) of investment from China’s FAW Group. Breitfeld says this will put the company “in a position where we are able to control the cost of the batteries much better than before" – a major factor in the base-model M-Byte’s predicted 300,000 yuan (£35,000) retail price.
Formed by ex-BMW i boss Breitfeld and Daniel Kirchert, former head of Infiniti’s Chinese division, Byton’s management team also includes other former BMW executives, along with ex-Alpine engineer and recent Autocar Award winner David Twohig.