Serial innovator James Dyson announced that his aptly named company Dyson has been building a concept electric vehicle for the last 2 years and plans to bring it to market by 2020.
— Dyson (@Dyson) September 26, 2017
The announcement was made via a Twitter post that shared an internal email that was sent out from Mr Dyson to his employees informing them of the company’s plans to build a production vehicle based on the concepts it had developed in 2 years of covert development. The new concept vehicles have spawned from Dyson’s belief that battery electric vehicles have the potential to be a solution to noxious combustion-related emissions, which led to Dyson charging forward and researching what it saw as the crux of the challenge: battery technology.
The technology was a natural fit as Dyson’s cordless vacuum systems employ batteries and high-power motors and allowed Dyson to profit while researching new battery technologies that might also be useful in an electric vehicle application. Mr Dyson’s personal discontent with the status quo in the automotive industry coupled with his unceasing need to innovate brought the company to where it is today — with an electric vehicle concept and plans to bring it from concept to production in under 3 years.
To make that dream a reality, Dyson has first admitted that it doesn’t know the automotive industry and has reached out to automotive industry experts. The combined team of Dyson’s finest and automotive industry experts is already more than 400 strong and is “recruiting aggressively.”
Mr Dyson shared that the company will largely keep the new vehicle under wraps to protect any competitive advantage it may have as a result of the massive influx of competition from incumbents and newcomers alike in the electric vehicle space. He has committed £2 billion to the new effort, which would have been significant 2 years ago but in today’s market seems to need an extra boost. Tesla’s Gigafactory work, potentially on a few continents, and newcomer Daimler announcing it is rolling $1 billion into batteries alone and $10 billion into “nextgen EVs,” $2 billion may prove to be insufficient.
Batteries will be the crux of the matter. With Dyson having developed its battery technology in house, whether or not it chooses to outsource battery production or not will prove to be a critical juncture moving forward. Nissan started with batteries in house via its joint venture AESC with NEC, but has recently soured to the deal and has sought to divest itself of battery production altogether.
This is not Dyson’s first engagement with the automotive industry, as the innovator had tasked a team of internal experts to leverage Dyson’s cyclonic vacuum filter technology to capture diesel emissions back in the ’90s. The effort went so far as to develop several working prototypes, but much to their chagrin found that the automotive companies were not interested in the technology. With no buyers, the project was scuttled, but the discontent for combustion engine vehicles remained.
Rumors have been flying around about Dyson building an EV for years and those rumors have now proved to be correct. Dyson is also looking beyond EVs with energy storage company Sakti3, which it bought, still chugging away. The two are a natural pairing, as the core technology supporting both is large-scale lithium-ion batteries. Though, the chemistries and battery management used in the two applications may vary.
This announcement is just the latest in a long string of major pushes into EVs in recent weeks as automotive incumbents, innovators, and activists alike respond to the reality of the highly anticipated Tesla Model 3 finally being released.