Future Mobility Corp (FMC) has released details of an SUV-type vehicle planned for its EV brand, Byton, and it is promising some interesting features.
It was announced last year that executives from three major automakers would be joining together to develop a new electric vehicle company called Future Mobility Corp. Talent from Tesla, Nissan, and BMW came together with ambitious plans for a mid-priced EV range made in China. Currently, the managing team comprises of Dr Daniel Kirchert, Dr. Carsten Breitfield, both coming from BMW, and Steve Ivsan, formerly of Tesla.
Indeed, ElecTrans reported that the company would begin production in 2019. This latest development re-confirms the company’s initial statement that it would be producing an all-electric SUV for release in 2020. However, Reuters has now suggested that the Chinese release could be as early as the “fourth quarter of 2019” and European and American markets will follow soon after. Making up Byton’s 3-car range will also be a sedan and a 7-seater multi purpose vehicle by 2022.
The launch of Byton took place in Shanghai and its EV is ready to enter the next serious phase of development. Being a crossover, the car is advertised as an SUV type, which means that it is typically built on a unibody frame while incorporating various sports utility features. Certain technical details are lacking but the brand is promising a battery pack capable of over 300 miles of range on a single charge – enough to last for “a whole week of urban commuting.” Charging times have also been addressed by the battery capabilities. According to FTC’s website, the EV will be ready to drive in “the time it takes you to enjoy a cup of coffee”.
The car will also be capable of autonomous driving with much attention paid to the in-car experience. One of the features is a huge dashboard screen, measuring 1.2 metres, stretching the width of the car. Reportedly, a driver can control the screen by using hand gestures rather than touch, but this is unconfirmed. Social media and diary management are also prevalent features within the interface.
In terms of funding, FMC is said to have raised US$200 million from investors, including from Suning Commerce Group and Fullshare Holdings. In addition, TenCent Holdings, a major Tesla investor and the world’s largest gaming company, has been secured as a backer and should give FMC a bit of extra financial oomph. TenCent is renowned for media and internet provision, making FMC’s development of user experience understandable.
Despite confidence from funders, Byton might just be another unrealistic ‘vaporware’ project. The brand could be accused of providing a set of solutions to problems that no-one has. Large screens and responsive operations also raise questions of drivability and road safety, which have not been addressed.
Given its SUV-crossover status, the brand may be pursuing the space otherwise taken by premium vehicles such as Range Rover, another status symbol for urban users. FMC’s website promises technology for more than just a minority but it would seem for now that the intended market remains high-end consumers.
Perhaps this fits in with FMC’s co-founder, and president, Kirchert’s statement to the South China Post earlier this year: “This is a made-in-China vehicle and we want to develop it into a maverick.” Is this a case of contradiction rather than unorthodoxy? Simply put, the emphasis has been put on what FMC is calling “an entirely new source of energy: the power of ideas” instead of spending more time on developing an affordable product that will definitively break the 300-mile range barrier.