Domestic electrical appliance manufacturer Dyson has confirmed that it is moving forward with a plan to launch an EV.
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance: Domestic electrical appliance manufacturer Dyson has confirmed that it is moving forward with a plan to launch an EV.
- Implications: The company's founder has said that it will invest GBP2 billion in the project, which is expected to launch its first products in 2020.
- Outlook: Given the lack of information that has been released by Dyson, it is too early to make a judgement on the success of the project, but there are certainly plenty of questions that still need answering.
After several years of speculation, domestic electrical appliance manufacturer Dyson has confirmed that it is moving forward with a plan to launch an electric vehicle (EV). The announcement was made in a tweet sent out by the company's official Twitter account which featured an e-mail sent out by the company's founder, James Dyson, to its staff announcing the plans. He said that it has been his "ambition to find a global solution to the global problem of air pollution." Having already committed the company to developing new battery technologies, and its experience gained in digital motors, fluid dynamics and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, he said, "We finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together in a single product."
On the confirmation, the senior executive said that Dyson plans to launch such a vehicle in 2020, having already undertaken two and a half years of development on the project. Its plans will be supported by 400 engineers from both within Dyson and "talented individuals from the automotive industry." It is also continuing to recruit "aggressively." In order to achieve this goal, the company has committed around GBP2 billion (USD2.69 billion). A separate report in the Financial Times (FT) has added that of this total, GBP1 billion will be spent on battery development and the remainder on designing and making the car itself.
Dyson noted that while the project will grow quickly, it does not intend to release any further information at this stage, noting, "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." Nevertheless, he was quoted by the FT as stating that the company is intending to develop and manufacture the vehicle itself rather than work with an existing automaker, but will be leveraging traditional automotive component supply chains. It has also said that no decision had been made on production location, although both the UK and Asia are under consideration, particularly as Dyson sees China as being its largest market given concerns over air quality. The company has also seen strong growth in Asia for its high end consumer products in recent times, with a 400% increase in turnover during the past decade. In the short term, the engineers involved in the project will be moving to the former RAF Hullavington base in Wiltshire (UK).
Outlook and implications
It certainly is no surprise that Dyson has finally announced its plans to enter the EV space. Although the company is best known for its vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, fans and now hair dryers for both domestic and business applications, it has been linked with EVs for a number of years. It was also unofficially revealed in the UK government's National Infrastructure Delivery Plan in March 2016, when it was said that Dyson would receive GBP174 million of support for activities in this area, before the relevant text was removed. The UK government has also given it a grant to support battery development, and it has acquired battery company Satki3, a battery technology business that specialises in solid state batteries. These have the potential to hold more charge than lithium-ion batteries but are more unstable. If the company has managed to find a solution to its issues, it would give it a leadership in this space over established companies like Toyota, which is hoping to have the technology in its vehicles by early 2020.
Dyson has also made a number of hires from the automotive space in recent times, including Aston Martin's former product development director Ian Minards, its former purchasing director David Wyer and aerodynamicist Peter Rawcliffe. Furthermore, Benjamin Strong, formerly the Range Rover platform engineering manager at Jaguar Land Rover’s (JLR) SVO division, joined Dyson in May as operations manager. Although all will have significant expertise in their respective areas of the automotive industry, this may also serve to underline talk that Dyson is keen to focus on the premium end of the automotive market.
For James Dyson, his company's entry into this space is to some degree unfinished business in supporting a reduction in emissions from vehicles that began with the development of a "cyclonic filter that could be fitted on a vehicle's exhaust system to trap particulates" in 1990 which never took off in the industry. In line with the company's philosophy and design of its other products, he hopes for it to be "unique and better". Indeed, he told Reuters, "There's no point doing something that looks like everyone else's," before adding, "it is not a sports car and not a very cheap car." However, developing the product will be only half the struggle, with the rest being focused on taking the vehicle to market, reaching customers and meeting expectations when it is out there. An investment of GBP2 billion could be just a drop in the ocean given how much more established players in the automotive space are planning to spend to achieve their goals in the EV space, before you get to the established sales and production networks that they already have in place. Even Tesla – which Dyson is likely to view as its closest rival – has spent substantial amounts of cash and continues to do so as it introduces its Model 3 to production, and so is likely to require a further injection of funding in due course. Without any further information, IHS Markit will wait for further updates before making any assessment on the likely success of this project.
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