Electric vehicles continue to make inroads with consumers, and many automakers have thrown their hats into the ring. But for various reasons, a number of EV startups have fallen by the wayside.

Based on early indications, we believe that China-based Byton — named after the company-coined phrase "bytes on wheels" — will turn out to be an exception.

Byton was co-founded by CEO Carsten Breitfeld and president Daniel Kirchert. Both are auto-industry stalwarts with a deep knowledge of vehicle development and production. Kirchert was involved in the initial rush of automotive manufacturers into China and has experience setting up relations between foreign OEMs and domestic manufacturing facilities, while Breitfeld is an R&D expert who's best known for launching the exotic BMW i8 hybrid coupe.

The company's plan is relatively conservative, with realistic pacing between milestones. As of this writing, we've already seen a near-production vehicle with a production-ready interior, while spy photos of camouflaged test cars have been snapped near Byton's shiny new factory in Nanjing, China. Byton also has a software integration and autonomous driving hub in Silicon Valley, as well as an R&D center in Munich. Offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong handle design, marketing, sales, external affairs and investor relations.

Byton intends to produce three cars for now, all based on similar architecture. As with many EVs, the batteries will sit under the passenger compartment to maximize space and keep the center of gravity low. The platform will be available with at least two battery capacities (71 kWh and 95 kWh) and either rear- or all-wheel drive. The first model to hit the road, sometime in 2020, will be the M-Byte SUV, which looks like a hatchback on steroids and is projected to start around $45,000. The M-Byte features a gigantic 48-inch display with touchscreens in the steering wheel and center console, as well as front seats that can swivel toward each other when the vehicle is stopped. Byton believes that when autonomous driving becomes commonplace, this seating position will help facilitate conversation between passengers.

Next up will be the sedan version of the M-Byte, the K-Byte. The concept version pairs a traditional sedan shape with integrated lidar and radar equipment needed for autonomous driving. There's no name yet for the third car, which Byton says will be an MPV, or multipurpose vehicle.

As of early 2019, Byton has contracts in place with global suppliers and has completed Series B financing. The next big hurdle will be to get Byton vehicles out in the market in China, after which it will be time to federalize the portfolio for the United States. Stay tuned as we follow Byton's progress.

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