Engineering firm Dyson, the company best-known for vacuum cleaners, plans to develop its own electric car. Dyson’s radical electric vehicle will be unveiled in 2020, says company founder Sir James Dyson.
Professor of Innovation Jeremy Howells of the Kent Business School at the University of Kent says it’s a “watershed” moment for Dyson which has been led by its “exuberant entrepreneur and founder.”
The company has revealed around 400 staff have been secretly working on the project for the past couple of years.
“The move into car production is much more radical in nature for the company [compared to previous innovations in consumer electronics such as hand dryers, fans and LED lamps], emerging as a major UK based disruptor in the car industry; together with Elon Musk’s Tesla US based car company, in the (now) fast changing global motor industry,” says Howells.
“Some observers may say this is a step too far for Dyson, but the key technologies in this disruption, electric motors and batteries, is something which the company has long established core technical capabilities which will stand it in good stead.”
Taavi Madiberk, CEO of Skeleton Technologies, said Dyson’s move is another indication of the increasing competitiveness of the market and is great news for the electric car market.
“Dyson’s move into this market is set to further ignite an already dynamic sector, resulting in wider adoption and interest in EV and alternatively fuelled vehicles,” noted Madiberk.
Dyson’s founder offered few details about the company’s electric vehicle plans other than to say: “Competition for new technology in the automotive industry is fierce and we must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our vehicle confidential.”
BBC Transport Correspondent, Richard Westcott, said it was typical “Sir James Dyson” as the “unusual launch” was in keeping with the Dyson founder’s eccentricities.
Further development work on the car that’s said to be aimed at a niche market, will take place at a former RAF base at Hullavington in Wiltshire, where staff will move to in February.
The motor is ready to go, Dyson said the car had yet to be designed. Dyson’s ambitions are further indication of the global push to develop electric vehicles.
“With much of the headway already made by Tesla, this rapid surge in electric cars will set new demands for power in the UK and bring concerns over the ability of our national energy infrastructure to support the future peaks,” added Madiberk. “At this point, it is becoming critical that we adopt technology that allows us to smooth over the energy consumption needs that the country is yet to experience.
“Government, industry bodies and innovators in the sector must work together to support energy storage technologies that complement the grid, such as ultracapacitor and battery technology. Only by having a stable and reliable energy infrastructure will the country be able to benefit from the exciting electric vehicle technologies that industry innovators such as Dyson will bring.”
Dyson revealed around £1bn will be spent on developing the car, with another £1bn set aside to develop the battery.
Jeremy Howells said Dyson has the confidence and long term resources to “develop the car using in-house expertise”. He added: “Undoubtedly Dyson will, at some stage, need specialist technical and engineering from outside, but the UK has a rich base of specialist engineering companies in the motor and F1 business from which to call upon for this. The project has therefore a very good chance of success, with the only other disruptive trend in the industry, driverless technology, posing a potential threat to Dyson’s ambitions here.
Added Howells: “‘Moreover, together with its wider design flair and engineering capability and that the fact it is a private company (with ‘patient capital’) has meant that Dyson has the confidence and long term resources to develop the car using in-house expertise. Some £1 billion already been invested in the project (with a further £1 billion on related battery technology), with some 400 engineers working on the new electric car at its HQ and main research and development (R&D) site at Malmersbury, Wiltshire.
At this moment, we still don’t know what sort of range Dyson’s car will possess, its top speed, price to the consumer or annual production but the firm did note it wants to incorporate driverless capability, in some form, to the vehicle.
Said Theo Leggett, BBC Business Correspondent, “The big question is whether Dyson can muscle in on territory that the major manufacturers are already trying to make their own. And let’s not forget Google’s designs on the electric/self-driving market.
“Tesla was able to build a new car brand from scratch, but only by producing a design which effectively moved the goalposts and changed people’s expectations of what an electric car could provide. If Dyson wants to play with the big boys, it may have to pull off a similar trick.”