Electric-Car Startup Byton Secures $500 Million in Funding

Byton will rely on Chinese companies for financial and technical support.

Byton

Chinese electric-car startup Byton has global ambitions, but it will look within its home country for financial and technical support. Byton has secured $500 million in Series B funding with most investors based in China. Some of these investors also have technical experience that could help Byton reach its goal of launching a production electric car in 2019.

The largest single investor is Chinese state-owned automaker FAW Group, Byton CEO Dr. Carsten Breitfeld told The Drive. FAW, which contributed around $250 million, is one of China's largest domestic automakers and could provide relevant manufacturing expertise. Another investor is CATL, which will provide batteries for Byton's electric cars, Breitfeld said.

Byton plans to sell cars in North America and Europe, but its initial focus will be on China. The company is opening a new headquarters in Nanjing and hopes to begin churning out prototype cars from a factory there in the first half of 2019. It hopes to begin delivering cars to Chinese customers by the end of next year, followed by a mid-2020 U.S. launch. Byton plans to begin selling cars in Europe later in 2020. In addition to its Chinese home base, the company has an R&D facility in California and a design center in Germany.

Unlike fellow startups such as Faraday Future, Lucid Motors, and Nio, Byton will focus on connectivity rather than performance. Byton unveiled a concept car at CES 2018 that couldn't top competitor models in range or acceleration, but did feature an elaborate infotainment system that used facial recognition and a cloud-based data platform. Byton is also working with startup Aurora Innovation on autonomous driving.

Like other fresh-faced electric car brands, Byton hasn't left itself much time to complete development work on its first models and start production. It's unclear whether Byton will be able to meet its ambitious goals, but the rewards could be significant if it does. China is currently the world's largest new-car market, and stricter emissions standards are expected to boost sales of electric cars over the next few years.

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