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The Financial Times reports that the first car, due before 2020, will show the company how to make a vehicle and establish relationships with suppliers, while the second and third cars will enter the market with higher production volumes to further establish the brand among mass-market competition. More EVs could come later from the brand following the initial three.
Unnamed Dyson sources say the first model will have a production run of fewer than 10,000 units. Company founder Sir James Dyson has already confirmed that the car will carry a premium price tag but will not be a sports car.
Another source claimed that the company has chosen not to use solid-state batteries for its first model, as previously planned, instead saving the technology on the second and third models in its line-up.
Initial reports stated that solid-state batteries were planned for the first car, although the brand’s solid-state battery executive, Ann Marie Sastry, left the company in late 2017. It’s unconfirmed if the two decisions are linked.
Rival EV maker Tesla has faced great difficulty in keeping up with deliveries of the Model 3, its mass-market-oriented and cheapest model.
Battery executive departs firm
Dyson confirmed to Autocar that the executive behind its solid-state battery technology has left the company.
A spokesman said “Ann Marie Sastry is no longer with Dyson” but refrained from explaining why, stating that the company doesn’t “get into specifics on personnel matters”. Sastry joined Dyson when it purchased her battery company, Sakti3, for $90 million (£67.4 million) three years ago.
Although the technology Dyson is developing remains shrouded in secrecy, Sastry previously suggested that the company was close to bringing solid-state batteries to production – a feat that could give Dyson an advantage in the global race for more efficient EVs.
Solid-state battery packs have a higher energy density and are quicker to charge than liquid cells, cooler while operating and potentially more powerful. Toyota is the only manufacturer with firm plans to introduce the technology in the coming decade, while Porsche has hinted that solid-state EVs are in its product plans. BMW has also partnered with a solid-state battery company in its effort to adopt the technology.
It is not yet known how Sastry’s departure will impact on the progress of Dyson’s car, which marks a leap for a brand that is best known for making household goods such as vacuum cleaners and hair dryers.
Dyson’s first EV plans unveiled
The first car’s development will be funded by £2 billion from Dyson and the project has received support from the British Government. A team of 400 people is working on the project at Dyson’s Wiltshire headquarters.
Dyson is keeping specific details such as performance and range secret, but the first model won’t be a mass-market car like the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf; instead, it will be aimed at a more tech-oriented market. Dyson’s existing household goods tend to be more expensive than the competition, suggesting that the car’s market position will be firmly in the premium segment, similar to that of Tesla.
There’s no definitive word yet on where the car will be built, but Sir James recently revealed to Reuters: “Wherever we make the battery, we’ll make the car; that’s logical. So we want to be near our suppliers; we want to be in a place that welcomes us and is friendly to us, and where it is logistically most sensible. And we see a very large market for this car in the Far East.”
Dyson has a large market presence in the Far East, so Chinese production isn’t an unrealistic prediction, although the car is being developed in the UK.
In the announcement of Dyson’s electric car plan, Sir James took swipes at governments’ push for diesels and the Dieselgate emissions scandal. “Governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants,” he said. “Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations. As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses. It is a problem that others are ignoring.”
He revealed that a major aim is to reduce air pollution from cars “at the source”, saying: “I committed the company to develop new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating. At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product.
“We’ve started building an exceptional team that combines top Dyson engineers with talented individuals from the automotive industry. The team is already over 400 strong and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing £2bn on this endeavour.”
Dyson’s car will be Dyson-badged, unlike Google’s Waymo project and Apple’s autonomous car efforts, which are focusing on components for other cars. Dyson is not planning to seek help from other manufacturers to bring the car to production.