Over the last 12-18 months, a seemingly endless amount of exciting new electric cars and SUVs have been teased from a plethora of companies many of us have never heard of. They’re often promoted with incredible power ratings and ranges that would make them a practical option for most commuters, but so far none have been up for sale. But it now appears that one is set to soon become a retail reality as the 2019 Byton electric SUV is reportedly edging closer to production.
When it arrives, this first model from the Chinese brand will be an all-electric SUV boasting 469 bhp and a claimed driving range on a single full charge of its battery of some 323 miles. Of course, “close to production” is a relative term as the company’s headquarters in Nanjing, China, will only be opened this week, and construction work is only now close to completion on Byton’s factory. However, the production facility has already produced prototype vehicles ahead of the full launch of what will shortly be a rival to the highly acclaimed Jaguar I-Pace.
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To help achieve its production goals, Byton has also revealed an investment from Chinese automotive giant FAW of around $260 million. The company’s co-founder, Daniel Kirchert, says: “The Chinese automobile market offers excellent conditions for our company. The infrastructure developments, the market forecasts and the keen interest of the people in our products strengthen us enormously. Of course, our deep understanding of the Chinese market as a basis for our economic success also helps us.”
As part of the Milan Design Week earlier this year, Byton unveiled a concept version of the SUV that it claimed was “85% there.” And although some minor modifications are probably required to meet various legalities, company boss Carsten Breitfeld says the touchscreen-dominated interior of the vehicle is “series production ready.”
A first prototype version of the SUV was completed last week, a small number are currently being built now for crash testing, and the first development prototypes are due to be ready around the middle of this year.
Even so, the all-electric SUV still won’t go on sale in China until late next year, and its arrival in Europe and the USA as Byton’s first model isn’t anticipated until 2020.