Innovative British engineer Sir James Dyson has canned his proposed multi-billion dollar project that had aimed to develop an all-new “radically different” passenger electric vehicle.
In 2016, Dyson launched a £2.25 billion (A$ 4.1 billion) project to develop and manufacture its own electric vehicle. But while Dyson believes his company has designed a ‘fantastic car’, he admitted the company struggled to make the car financially viable.
The decision was announced in an email to Dyson staff, which said that Dyson had attempted to find a buyer for the project. But none came forward, so the company had no option but to cancel the project.
“The Dyson Automotive team have developed a fantastic car; they have been ingenious in their approach while remaining faithful to our philosophies,” Sir James Dyson’s email to staff said
“However, though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply cannot make it commercially viable. We have been through a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far. ”
“I wanted you to hear directly from me that the Dyson Board has therefore taken the very difficult decision to propose the closure of our automotive project.”
Dyson had planned to manufacture the electric vehicle at a new factory in Singapore, with the first completed vehicles due to reach customers in 2021. While the project has been highly secretive, it is believed the company was working on three different electric vehicle models.
As the project had yet to move to large-scale vehicle production, almost all of the 523 Dyson employees committed to the project were based in the United Kingdom.
We are sad to announce a proposal to end our automotive project. The Dyson automotive team has developed a fantastic electric car, but unfortunately it is not commercially viable. Read more here.
— Dyson (@Dyson) October 10, 2019
The company will seek to redeploy staff where possible within the company. The company had been undertaking the development of its vehicle project at is Hullavington campus, a facility built at a former British air force base.
It is understood that the Dyson company had spent up to £200 million (A$365 million) on the facility and the company will likewise repurpose the site for other company operations.
“We are working to quickly find alternative roles within Dyson for as many of the team as possible and we have sufficient vacancies to absorb most of the people into our Home business. For those who cannot, or do not wish to, find alternative roles, we will support them fairly and with the respect deserved,” the email said.
It was an ambitious undertaking by Dyson. Leading electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has taken more than a decade to build its business, cutting its teeth with the production of high-performance luxury vehicles before moving to higher volume sales of more affordable models.
Dyson was also going to be on the back-foot against major established vehicle manufacturers, like Volkswagen, who have massively ramped up investment in their electric vehicle development.
As is characteristic of Dyson’s approach to design, the company promised to bring a revolutionary electric vehicle design to the market, but struggled to make the economics work.
As part of the project, the company had worked on improvements to battery technology, including the development of solid-state battery technology that did not require the liquid or gel electrolytes found in most batteries.
In 2015, Dyson acquired solid-state battery company Sakti3, with the solid-state battery technology promising higher energy density and a lower cost compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries.
Dyson said battery innovations developed by the company will not go to waste, and will be deployed in other parts of the business.
Dyson has become a household name through its household appliances, including bladeless fans and bagless vacuum cleaners.
Michael Mazengarb is a journalist with RenewEconomy, based in Sydney. Before joining RenewEconomy, Michael worked in the renewable energy sector for more than a decade.