Vacuum Giant Dyson Was Serious, Apparently Has 3 Electric Cars In The Works
It’s an ambitious plan, to say the least...by Jonathan Lopez, on
We here at TopSpeed like to make the joke that all-electric vehicles often sound a bit like some sort of household appliance, usually a blender. As it turns out, we were only a little off the mark, as vacuum-maker Dyson is apparently building three new EVs, the first of which is due out by 2020.
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Back in September, Dyson CEO James Dyson announced plans to create a battery-powered automobile, partly motivated by Mr. Dyson's resolve to address “the global problem of air pollution.”
Last year we reported that Dyson, a British technology firm best known for its vacuum cleaners, was gearing up to step into the all-electric vehicle market. The pivot was announced last September in an email released to the public in which Dyson CEO James Dyson announced plans to shift resources towards the creation of a battery-powered automobile, partly motivated by Mr. Dyson’s resolve to address “the global problem of air pollution.”
To that end, Dyson has been busy building a team tailored specifically to the creation of an all-electric vehicle. Thus far, several outlets have reported that Dyson has recruited a slew of personnel from the auto industry, including high-ranking execs from Aston Martin and some of Tesla’s people as well. Dyson has also purchased the Michigan-based firm Sakti3, which is currently researching solid-state battery technology. Further reports point towards a 2.5 million-GBP ($3.51 million) investment in artificial intelligence technology, often seen as an indispensable facet of future EVs. Is total, Dyson says he is committed to investing upwards of 2 billion GBP to the EV project, or roughly $2.81 billion at current exchange rates (02/16/2018). The appliance-maker will also look to leverage its know-how in batteries, air filtration, and insulation technology, all of which is applicable in the construction of its first automobile.
Dyson says it hopes to debut its new EV as soon as 2020. It’s possible the first batch of cars will use more traditional lithium-ion batteries rather than futuristic solid-state batteries in order to meet Dyson’s ambitious timetable. While details on the forthcoming vehicle’s specs are sketchy (proposed range, size, and body style are all up in the air), it’s likely Dyson will employ a “top-down” model strategy similar to Tesla, starting with a high-end, high-dollar, low-volume model at the outset to help build up funds, followed by two less-expensive, high-volume models afterwards.
“In London, nearly 9,500 people die each year due to long-term exposure to air pollution according to a study carried out by researchers at King’s College London,” Dyson writes in his announcement letter, which was posted to social media last September. “The World Health Organization reports ’in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure.’ It is our obligation to offer a solution to the world’s largest single environmental risk.”
Of course, it should come as no surprise that the established makes are expressing their skepticism. The most vocal of these is Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer.
Of course, it should come as no surprise that the established makes are expressing their skepticism. The most vocal of these is Aston Martin, whose CEO, Andy Palmer, said in an interview with Autocar that Dyson’s intention to create a new electric vehicle in just a few years’ time might not pan out exactly as planned.
“I wish him the best of luck,” Palmer said in response Dyson’s EV announcement, “but on the numbers that have been reported, I know you won’t do it for that money, and you won’t do it in that timescale. At least, I know that I couldn’t.”
Palmer definitely knows what he’s talking about, considering that prior to heading Aston Martin, he was Nissan’s head of development, with previous projects including the creation of the Leaf. Aston Martin Consulting has also been sought for a variety of EV projects, including Faraday Future, and according to Palmer, there’s a common theme among them. “We’ve had discussions with about 10 of them,” he told Autocar. “Every single one has underestimated the difficulty of engineering a car to a budget and to an aggressive timescale. Some of them will get there, but always over budget and late.”
Back in October, following the announcement of Dyson’s intentions to create an EV, Palmer put on his troll face and released a rendering of an Aston vacuum cleaner on Twitter, including a message that read “Congratulations @Dyson on joining our independent British car company club. We’re looking forward to branching out into vacuum’s [sic] ...”.
Maybe he was just salty Dyson stole Aston’s personnel.
Either way, the story isn’t altogether that unfamiliar. The most obvious comparisons can be made with the California-based EV upstart Tesla, which is notorious for making, and subsequently missing, aggressive timetables and goals. The latest example is the delivery of Tesla’s more accessible Model 3 sedan, with CEO Elon Musk last year mentioning a dramatic ramp-up in capacity (otherwise dubbed “production hell”) to meet a target of 5,000 units per week. So far, Tesla has failed to reach that target.
That said, Tesla’s marketability is undeniable. Consumers see the brand as “cool,” “futuristic,” and “fast,” and the chronically missed production targets have yet to kill its incredibly stout image. Will Dyson, a company best known for producing vacuum cleaners, be able to rely on strong marketing to pull it through? Probably not.
Will Dyson, a company best known for producing vacuum cleaners, be able to rely on strong marketing to pull it through, like Tesla? Probably not. But maybe we're not giving it enough credit.
To make matters worse, the competition isn’t slowing down by any measure. It seems like every other week there’s a new EV startup announcing plans to revolutionize the industry, and all of the major makes have significant EV plans for the immediate future as well. By 2020, the EV landscape will likely be much, much more cutthroat. For example, Fisker is currently working on its own solid-state battery tech, which it announced at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier in the year, and it looks poised to be a real game-changer once it makes it to the auto segment.
On the other hand, perhaps we’re not giving Dyson enough credit. After all, people these days tend to consider cars to be just another device, especially when it comes to EVs. So why not get yours from a manufacturer that also produces vacuum cleaners? Not only that, but Dyson is well established as a company, and although it has yet to produce a car, it’s still known for its meticulous attention to detail when it comes to its other products.
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