The automotive industry has been recently flooded with non-conventional players, such as technology giants’ ventures into autonomous vehicles, and most recently household appliances giant Dyson. The British company, famous for vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, bladeless fans, heaters and hair dryers, has already announced it plans to start producing a niche electric car.
“A car’s a huge challenge”
Last September, James Dyson stated that the company has been working on a “radically different” electric vehicle design since 2015, which would start selling in 2020. Speaking with the Financial Times on Wednesday, Dyson revealed intentions to build 3 new models. Available during the next 10 years, the models will feature a solid-state battery pack, instead of traditional lithium-ion batteries. They will be completely built in-house, with proprietary technology and engineering.
Dyson is planning to invest $2.8 billion in the development of EVs, eventually becoming Tesla‘s competitor. The launch of the first up-market EV is expected by 2020. The first model will be used to establish a route to market, a supply chain and a potential customer base, leading to a low production volume, of single-digit thousands. Similarly like Tesla, Dyson will also produce mass-market EVs, which will be released later.
Radically different design
The company has started investing in both lightweight materials and solid-state battery technology for cars. Speculators have started guessing that the cars will be comprised of plastics rather than metals, and would be lighter. Solid-state batteries, on the other hand, have been developed by Dyson for several years, and can improve the car’s driving range and charging capabilities.
Nonetheless, the solid-state battery pack might not be ready to fit in the first model, before the launch date, due to management issues, after Ann Marie Sastry, the head of the solid-state division and founder of the battery start-up Sakti3, left Dyson in 2017. Hence, Dyson might need to use lithium-ion batteries in this first model. The only major car manufacturer that is working on the technology is Toyota, which has set out goals to release a solid-state battery car before 2025.
Pending manufacturing location
In addition to resolving manufacturing hurdles, Dyson still needs to pick the location of the manufacturing site. Being traditionally British, makes Wales and Wiltshire in the U.K. favourable destinations, while Singapore, Malaysia and China are also considered.
However, the U.K. might not be preferable, having denied additional financial support to the automotive segment, besides a £16m grant Dyson received for its battery development. As Dyson expects China to be the largest market for its cars, it might instead choose one of the locations where it has manufacturing operations, such as Singapore and Malaysia, considering their geographic proximity. Dyson will make the manufacturing decision before the summer, after analysing which location is “commercially the best place to do it”, which appears to be Singapore, according to many people familiar with the company.
Wherever Dyson chooses to produce the cars, they will be built with the company’s electric motors, which turn the wheels, in-house produced battery cells and developing auto software. Another advantage over other non-conventional players would be Dyson’s long experience of managing loyal supply chain and manufacturing operations.