All-Electric SUV Features Massive Display Screen
Finally, it looks like one of the Chinese-financed, Silicon Valley-oriented electric vehicle startups appears to be paying attention to the current market. Byton, headquartered in Nanjing, China, but with design offices in Munich, a technology office in Silicon Valley and three other Chinese offices, introduced its first concept car at CES yesterday. It’s all-electric, of course, but more important, it’s a midsize SUV/crossover.
The overall shape is not revolutionary, but the powertrain is–for a crossover
That exterior may be less important than the interior from Byton’s perspective, but more on that later. When Clean Fleet Report was on a tour of Byton’s Silicon Valley offices last month, the details offered on the car were sketchy, but intriguing. The company’s up-front partnership with key suppliers—Robert Bosch and Fuerencia—was highlighted. Those relationships, usually hidden or minimized by both OEMs and startup EV companies, were presented as proofpoints of the viability of the Byton operation. The technology, much of it coming from the Santa Clara, Calif., office, including huge display screens with sophisticated human-machine interface (HMI) options, an extensive use of facial recognition and a high level of autonomous technology. None of this was exception on its own (something shared by the car itself), but the total package appears to be Byton’s main value proposition.
Speaking of value proposition, the company said it expects the car to retail for about $45,000 when it comes to the U.S. in 2020. It will first be retailed in China, where it will be built. The platform architecture on which the unnamed SUV will be built will underpin the two following models, a sedan and a multipurpose vehicle (van in Chinese parlance) that will follow in 2031 and 2022.
Coming in Two Flavors
The 5-door SUV, which follows the basic shape and layout of its gas, diesel and hybrid competitors, will come in two flavors. The entry-level two-wheel drive model, which will start at $45,000, will have a single 268 horsepower (hp, 200 kW) motor driving the rear wheels and backed by a 71 kWh battery that delivers a promised 248-mile range. The four-wheel drive version will pack two motors with a total of 402 hp (300 kW) and a 95 kWh battery pack good for a 323 mile range. It’s pricing hasn’t been announced. Like most fast-charge capable EVs, the Byton will be able to recharge to 80 percent of capacity within 30 minutes at a rate of 12 kW/minute.
The whole package is in a 115-inch wheelbase, 191-inch overall midsize crossover, a slightly longer wheelbase than the category stalwart Lexus RX 450, but within a couple inches in overall length.
The Big Screen
Byton’s big news—and we aren’t throwing hyperbole this time—is inside. The front seat passengers will be confronted with a 49-inch wide, 9.8-inch high screen that will recognize the occupants and deliver personalized entertainment and information. It will respond to voice, gesture and touch. It’s augmented by an eight-inch screen in the steering wheel, another first, and two large screens on the seat backs for any rear passengers. The comparisons about cars becoming iPhones on wheels are becoming a physical reality. At the company’s Silicon Valley launch, executives
Screens accompany you and interact with you throughout the Byton
The front seats from Faurencia swivel in 12 degrees to facilitate activities while the car is in autonomous mode. The initial models are expected to ship with Level 3 autonomy, similar to what is currently found in Teslas and the latest Cadillac, but Byton expects a Level 4 system to be enabled with a software upgrade by the time the cars come to America.
At the Silicon Valley headquarters launch, Dr. Daniel Kirchert, an automobile industry veteran who is president and co-founder of Byton, talked frankly about the financial aspects of a startup. While they have a Chinese plant with a production capacity of 300,000 vehicles/year under construction, they expect to use the driveable concept they just introduced (they had three on stage) as part of a fundraising campaign they’ll undertake at mid-year. Like many EV concepts we’ve seen during the past couple years, the Byton still has some ground to cover before it can join the rank of auto companies.
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Clarity Family Wins Honor for Three Models
Green Car Journal awarded its 2018 Green Car of the Year trophy to the Honda Clarity family of vehicles, which comes as a fuel cell electric, battery electric or plug-in hybrid. The magazine noted that “Honda’s Clarity sedan is a future-thinking model that redefines how to deliver what drivers desire today, while also anticipating the shifting needs of a more environmentally positive driving future.”
Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell was one-third of the winners
The Clarity was picked from an all-Asian nameplate field of contenders, including the Honda Accord, Hyundai Ioniq, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Camry. The award was announced during Automobility/LA, the media preview to the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The jury for the award includes Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of Ocean Futures Society; Matt Petersen, president and CEO of Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and board member of Global Green USA; Dr. Alan Lloyd, president emeritus of the International Council on Clean Transportation; Mindy Lubber, president of CERES; and Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, plus celebrity auto enthusiast Jay Leno and Green Car Journal editors.
The Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid may have closed the deal for the award
“The Green Car of the Year award is further validation of Honda’s approach to electrification with the Clarity family of vehicles,” said Steven Center, vice president of connected and environmental business at American Honda. “The Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, Clarity Electric and Clarity Fuel Cell offer the power of choice to consumers who want to step in to an electrified vehicle without the compromise. We are proud to deliver on that promise to offer these three advanced powertrains you can only find from Honda in a roomy five-passenger sedan with all the creature comforts that consumers expect today.”
Clean Fleet Report has spent time in all three models and concurs that they have accomplished quite a feat by offering such a variety of powertrains in one model. Our test drive of the Clarity Fuel Cell is here and one of the Clarity Electric is here. A full road test of the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is here. We’re not sure the individual Clarity models are the best in each of their categories, but the unique offering of three powertrain choices definitely stands out.
The Honda Clarity Electric is the third member of the family
48-Volt Hybrids+Advanced Cylinder Deactivation Is Coming
I have driven the car of the future. Not some distant, expensive, exotic future, but a future that is going to start to define the cars you drive over the next few years. To check off the usual suspects—the car didn’t fly, wasn’t self-driving and wasn’t even fully electric or fueled by hydrogen. But it was electrified with a small battery and contained an engine packed with brand-new software.
The car of the near-future still uses gas, but ups the efficiency quotient
The car was provided by one of the world’s top automotive suppliers—Delphi Technologies—and demonstrated a side of the “future car” discussion sometimes lost here in Silicon Valley where I reside. We are going through revolutionary times—yes—but the future may end up being defined by more incremental changes.
The changes inside the Volkswagen Passat I drove were born out of the software revolution and battery advances coming out of Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the automotive world, but their implementation in a car is subtle. The computer power in a modern automobile continues to grow. This software taps into it to wring more efficiency from a traditional engine at minimal cost. Dropping a battery into a car is old news at this point, but the costs of doing it has been dropping this past decade, while the power derived from a battery continues to grow.
Two Key Factors
Sometimes we may forget that car companies are not there just to turn out world-changing, dazzling new machines. For most auto companies–the bottom line is the bottom line. They’re in business to make money as well as cars, much as are the technology and supplier companies contributing the parts and pieces that make up a modern automobile. Electric cars are great, but they are expensive and are not yet selling at volumes high enough to drive down costs draatically.
Another factor are government regulations worldwide that are driving auto companies to lower-CO2 cars, with electrification is the logical path to get there. So, for a profit-driven automaker (and that’s all of them), the quest is to electrify and drive down emissions (and increase fuel efficiency) at the most reasonable cost.
Suppliers live to solve automakers problems. They recognize that while they have one foot in the present, solving immediate issues of cost and volume production, they also have to address longer term solutions. So Dephi has a division focused on full electric powertrains and plans to bring that into the mix during the coming years.
In the meantime, as CTO Mary Gustanski said at a recent media briefing: “In 2025 95 percent of all light-duty vehicles will still have internal combustion engines,” but will still have to meet stringent emissions regulations and remain affordable. Gustanski sees Delphi as having the value proposition that gives automakers the biggest fuel economy boost for the least cost. The technologies are:
Gustanski added that Delphi’s secret sauce is system integration, which is where the cost is wrung out of the package. The Passat I drove with the system claimed to deliver at least a 15 percent CO2 reduction (they’re aiming for 20 percent) with increased low-end torque for improved acceleration and seamless start-stop operation. The incremental cost is in the hundreds of dollars to the OEM, according to Delphi. The company expects systems like this, incorporating 48-volt batteries, to grab 20 percent of the new car market by 2025.
Scott Bailey, Tula Technology’s CEO, called this “smarter fuel efficiency,” using the increased computer power found in a vehicle to “dynamically right-size the engine.” Its Dynamic Skip Fire (DSF) system uses algorithms added to the engine control software only run as many cylinders as are needed under each different driving situation. The driver controls the action via the accelerator. Ask for more power and it is there; coast down and the engine rests. The Tula software also factors in engine balance so its operation is transparent to the operator.
We’ve had a trial run with the Tula software before and were impressed with its functionality. Adding in a 48-volt hybrid battery takes the system to a new level. The fuel economy gains may not be as dramatic as a plug-in hybrid, but the cost of the system promises to bring exceptional fuel economy and a better driving experience to a broad range of cars. Although neither Delphi or Tula would disclose the manufacturer, they said the DSF package as a stand-alone is already getting close to production while they expect the eDSF package to follow soon after. But both supplier companies also added that they think they can wring even more efficiency out of the old ICE. So hang on.
New Engine Tech
In a competitive sport, there are at least two approaches to getting a win. One is to go for the knock-out punch, overwhelming your opponent with power, skill and strength. It’s risky and can be costly if you have a misstep. Think surprise knockout by a challenger going against an overconfident foe. A second strategy is the one for the long game–
The car of the future may be more like today’s — but better
if we’re sticking with the boxing analogy, think Ali’s rope-a-dope. Keep in the game by wearing down your opponent by being better, getting in a few more punches, playing a smarter and better game.
The auto industry is no boxing match; it’s closer to a rugby scrum on some days, but the tactics above are often on display. Delphi Technologies, the automotive powertrain and propulsion portion of what once was Delphi (the other, now separate part is Aptiv, which is focused on mobility solutions, smart vehicle architectures and connected cars). While they are developing electric car technology, they see a long game with the internal combustion engine and will be showcasing some of their latest counterpunches at CES next week. Their punch–take a sophisticated cylinder deactivation technology and mate it with 48-volt mild electrification for substantial fuel economy gains with no loss of performance.
Flash Drive: Clean Fleet Report “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.
Welcome to 2018!
We wish all of you a very Happy New Year! We hope 2017 was as good for you as it was for us here at Clean Fleet Report. We published more articles than in any previous year, covered breaking news of new models and tested cars of all shapes and sizes. The team of John Faulkner, Larry Hall, Steve Schaefer and Nick Zatopa dug deep and brought you up close to all of the important stories this year.
It’s a great time to be focused on green cars as the number of EVs, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and high-mileage gas and diesel vehicles continues to climb. And autonomous technology and connected vehicles promise to become a part of our daily lives. This has been a great year for us, but we think 2018 promises to be even more exciting. Glad to have you along for the ride.
Look for some surprises in January!
Editor & Publisher
Clean Fleet Report
The Mode 3 is just one of the stories we’ll be covering in 2018
BMW Leads in EVs/PHEVs in Europe
BMW is a relatively small company in the auto world, but it’s creating a big footprint in electrified vehicles. The BMW i3 is the best-selling electric car in the premium compact segment in the U.S., and the best-selling EV in Germany.
BMW celebrates an electrified holiday
BMW delivered 100,000 pure electrics and plug-in hybrids during 2017, reaching its goal for the year. According to the independent POLK/IHS Report (published on Dec. 7, 2017), the BMW Group is leading its competitors in registrations of new fully-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in Europe, with a market share of 21 percent. That’s three times BMW’s market share for its traditional models. The company celebrated by turning its Munich headquarters into a replica of a battery.
In the U.S. the current electrified BMW Group lineup includes the i3, available in full-electric and range-extended versions, and plug-in hybrid versions of the i8, 3-Series, 5-Series, 7-Series, X5 SUV and Mini Countryman. Currently, six percent of BMW’s sales are electrified vehicles, double or triple the percentage at its competitors.
A Sportier i3
BMW has just introduced a new variation of the i3–the i3s. It’s a performance upgrade for what was a fairly pedestrian (though pricey and packed with some exotic features) EV. The basic i3 also received a refresh and upgrade with a 94 Ah/33 kWh lithium-ion battery good for what BMW calls an “everyday range” of 124 miles.
The i3 is BMW’s lead electric vehicle
The new i3s gets some external paint treatment and badging to distinguish it from its non-s brethren, but the real story for the upgrade lies in a motor upgrade and some suspension tuning.
On its way to 25 electrified models across its different platforms by 2025, BMW plans to add the i8 Roadster in 2018, an all-electric Mini in 2019, an electric X3 in 2020, followed by the new electric flagship iNext in 2021, which will combine autonomous capability with electric drive.
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