Dyson Using Public Money To Develop An Electric Car, UK Government Documents Show

Rumors were going around last year that the well-known UK-based company Dyson was in the process of developing an electric car. According to documents recently released by the UK government, it appears that those rumors were true. The company is apparently developing its first consumer electric vehicle with the aid of public (government) money.

The news originated with the newly published National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, which stated: “The government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure £174 million of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering.”

Believable rumors first began to swirl last October, following the company’s acquisition of the solid-state battery company Sakti3 for $90 million. The acquisition was made because, according to Sir James Dyson himself, the company had “developed a breakthrough in battery technology.”

A mass-market electric vehicle (EV) featuring a solid-state battery would certainly be an interesting development, would it not? It’s a bit strange to see that the only established companies seemingly taking EV technologies very seriously — Apple, Google, and now Dyson — are so far outside of the auto-industry inner circle. Maybe they smell blood?

The company’s CEO, Max Conze, made a reference along those lines last year when first questioned about the EV rumors: “We are ruling nothing out. Like our friends in Cupertino we are also unhealthily obsessive when it comes to taking apart our products to make them better.”

The Guardian provides more:

Dyson recently reported profits up 20% in 2015, driven by strong growth in China, and said it plans to invest £1 billion in battery technology over the next five years.

…Asked if the company was, as the government suggested, developing an electric car, a Dyson spokesman said: “We never comment on products that are in development.”

…Dyson, 68, has a long history of inventions. He designed the Rotork Sea Truck, a fast cargo boat in 1970, which has been used by the military and is still sold today. In 1974, he designed the Ballbarrow, a barrow with a ball replacing the wheel, having been frustrated by wheelbarrows getting stuck in mud on a building site.

His breakthrough was the bagless vaucum cleaner, which was inspired by air cyclones used in sawmills to suck up sawdust. Since then, he has created bladeless fans and the Airblade hand dryer. Many of Dyson’s devices use small, light and efficient electric motors developed over 10 years by his company, which may find application in developing a new electric car. Dyson is a now worth several billion pounds and in 2014 pledged his company would spend £1.5 billion on research and development to create future products, aiming to launch 100 new electrical products by 2018.

It’ll be interesting to see what Dyson ends up developing and putting on the market. If the price-point ends up low enough, and the performance and range high enough, the offering could probably be pretty compelling.

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