Dyson Planning on Building Three Cars, Not Just One

vacuum cleaner

Last year, British appliance manufacturer Dyson said it would devote $2.7 billion towards the development of an electric car. The plan was to build a vehicle using advanced solid state batteries and bring it to market in 2020. There was no shortage of jokes about how a company that primarily produces vacuum cleaners would probably make a car that really sucked wasn’t very good.

However, the joke seems to be on them, as Dyson isn’t working on an electric car at all. Recent reports seem to indicate it’s actually developing three. But you can still snicker about the overly ambitious battery timeline, because there is practically no way the company can hit that target. Instead, it looks as if Dyson will rely on lithium-ion batteries rather than solid state on the first car — effectively eliminating the one big advantage it would have had when entering the market. 

A new report from the Financial Times, which managed to get a peek at Dyson’s EV program, said the first car will be used to establish a point of entry into the automotive market, a supply chain, and a potential customer base. As a result, it should have “a relatively low production run.” According to people familiar with the plan, the number would be in the low thousands.

Before you put that plan down, it’s essentially what Tesla did with its first model. Since the introduction of the Roadster, which had a product run of around 2,450 units between 2008 and 2011, the company has managed to increase its staff tenfold and become a darling on Wall Street.

However, Tesla’s first car was also the first model to break the coveted 200-mile range mark. That, along with a difficult-to-ignore CEO, helped get the company a lot of positive attention. Dyson will be entering the market with a vehicle that could be competitive but is unlikely to break any records without help from the solid state cells.

That said, it isn’t abandoning the technology. Dyson has already acquired Michigan-based battery startup Sakti3 for $90 million and announced its intention to build a $1 billion battery factory — specifically for solid state batteries — in the near future. But it also abandoned the University of Michigan’s $200,000-a-year license patent portfolio Sakti3 used as a base for its own research and split with the company’s founder, Ann Marie Sastry. That leaves us wondering if Dyson actually got what it needed from the deal.

The FT article reported that the company is considering a few automotive manufacturing locations. Presently it appears to be leaning toward production based in the United Kingdom, but has also been examining sites in Singapore, Malaysia and China.

While there’s definitely room in the EV market for new entrants, Dyson would need to work quickly to avoid serious competition from established manufacturers. It’s doubtful that any company is going to have solid state technology ready for cars in the next two years, but they are all actively pursuing it.