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Dyson Shows it Means EV Business: A Nearly $3 Billion USD Investment With a $200 Million Facility Shows They’re About Cars Too

Posted: August 31, 2018 - 8:45AM
Author: Al Castro
People would laugh at a vacuum company investing money and its reputation in building all electric BEV cars it’s never done before. But Dyson has something that took Tesla years to get and another thing it still doesn’t have, that gives Dyson an edge against Tesla: a manufacturing apparatus to build solid state batteries, and the key patents to make them, which are better than what Tesla is using.


Dyson Ltd. has a near $3 billion USD electric car program that recently expanded its technology center at the former Hullavington Airfield in England with more room for engineers and a 10 mile test track, a necessity when developing cars. If Dyson succeeds in manufacturing electric cars, it will give something Great Britain hasn’t seen from their storied car industry in quite awhile. Dyson Ltd. will become the only major British car company owned and operated by a controlling interest that’s a British National. Some say it will be a true British car company run by Brits. Not even Rolls Royce, Bentley, even Jaguar Land Rover can claim that anymore. Guess who might be getting a Royal Warrant to build the next (electric) Royal State Car?

  • Last year Sir James Dyson, Chief Engineer and Founder, Dyson Ltd, announced they were getting into the BEV car business.
  • It started with developing one model, but now they’re simultaneously developing three.
  • Dyson has outlaid capital to nearly $3 billion USD to show it’s serous.
  • Dyson recently invested $260 million USD at Hullavington in expanding engineering space and a 10 mile test track, a necessity when developing cars.
  • In doing this Dyson might be ready to move past design phase into pre-production by test driving mules to see how successful they are so far.

Who’s the Real Apple Car?

Some people are already starting to claim that Tesla Corp. is the Apple, Inc. of the car industry. Perhaps they should wait until Apple either: makes its own cars, really does buy Tesla, or wait until Dyson Ltd. finally rolls out its first electric car to become part of that same industry, then determine who the real Apple in car terms, is. As a self described technology company which is what also describes Apple, Dyson does many things similarly to the way Apple does, and it shows in the kind of products it makes and sells to its customers, like a fan with no blades. Like it is at Apple, it really is about “the next big thing” at Dyson. And contrary to its electric car program that almost immediately became a public spectacle almost mired in scandal, Dyson does operate efficiently behind closed doors developing and making it products secretly, and does a good job of it keeping it that way until a reveal is presented. There are contrasts between Dyson and Tesla.

As former GM Vice Chair Bob Lutz reminded us recently, Tesla really doesn’t have any “secret sauce” for their business model to keep them sustaining. Their secret sauce if anything, was the ability to bring all electric BEV cars to market to generate interest, and create a demand so that other car companies would start building them too. Mission accomplished. As we go along on this electric car journey further into the 21st century, Tesla’s significance to the car industry will have less meaning as Daimler Benz’ contribution was to giving us the gasoline car as we now know it today. Tesla will be seen as just another electric luxury car brand as Mercedes Benz is seen today as just another luxury car brand. Mercedes gave us the car as we now know it today. Should I have the band play four ruffles and flourishes before Mercedes comes on stage? If you get the point my Teslarites, then you’ll understand this is how Tesla will be eventually treated, no differently than its eventual peers ad by customers.

In fact, Mercedes Benz holds most of the patents on the most state of the art auto safety technology it licenses to other companies for use. Things Iike antilock brakes, airbags, seatbelt tensioners, passive collision avoidance, Triptronic Adaptive Cruise Control, passive emergency braking, lane departure warning, all can be given thanks to Daimler AG. They have the secret sauces. Do they get any preferential or deference to treatment?

The only secret sauce Tesla has is its patents on the way lithium ion batteries are manufactured so that they hold the charge efficiently as possible for the longest time. The patent is licensed by the inventor and is a 5 year agreement. That’s it. And that ion technology is not the best and not state of the art. It already is becoming obsolete. Battery and electric car manufacturers are taking advantage of it as it becomes cheap and the best stuff recently invented is expensive.

One advantage Tesla does have against other car companies, however, is the ability to manufacture those batteries with the largest factory on earth they own, and the ability to quickly adapt to new technology to put it almost right away in the cars on the assembly line as they’re being built. Ask Nissan, Renault, MItsubishi, Kia, and Hyundai how their battery supplies or manufacturing is coming along. They either didn’t have the money, wherewithal, or interest in investing in battery technology or manufacturing. They depend on battery manufacturers like LG or Panasonic or AESC to supply them batteries. There’s a worldwide ion battery shortage right now, due to demand. But the technology they’re using will become cheaper as it becomes obsolete. Now enters Dyson.

The Secret to Making Any Electric Car With Little Problems

One of the things I learned about the electric car industry and start ups involved in it, is that because of this worldwide demand based shortage of lithium ion batteries, if you want to be a key player in the industry to be at least self sustaining, you really do need to manufacture your own batteries. Unless you’re able to make a concrete reliable supply chain of batteries from a battery manufacturer, you will be at his total mercy in supplying you batteries, and if not, short of reserves, you have to stop assembly dead cold. You can give an electric lawn mower the longest possible extension cord in the world to get the job done, but if we could only use that same extension cord to get the car with the dead battery to the grocery store around the corner. If it were only that easy. I can imagine all of us tripping and stepping on each other’s cords! This is why it took Tesla at least 5 years to create both a reliable powertrain and a battery making apparatus before they could even start building cars, and why for the first four years of production, they used another car company’s gliders (that’s cars without guts) to put their powertrain in to sell to customers. This is all before Tesla actually started making the cars themselves at full production (Pre-Model S).

So when I see a startup (no names) with a plan to make a fancy EV vehicle with 300-500 miles of range, some even with money to make a prototype, to look at their devil in the details to see nothing about making batteries, I know that they’re not serious and won’t succeed like many don’t. So never mind about the car. As Tesla found out and it took them four model lines to finally realize this, you’ll find out about problems with the car when you finally get to assemble it and the customer drives it away. Worry about the batteries first. That’s what powers the damn thing.

Sir James v. Elon

As I research Dyson and his company, one of the things I notice about him is that he pays attention to the things that are wrong about another company’s products and tries to make his own things with improvements. Like the time he used his first vacuum that was a Hoover, he opened up to see why and how as it aged it wasn’t sucking as efficiently. He’ll have this same approach with cars. Dyson uses the usual marketing tools to find data on customer trends. But that doesn’t mean he always follows them. He was the first company to employ see through dust canisters, something marketing showed customers won’t like. He went ahead and used see through anyway. It is one of the most popular features most vacuum companies employ, started by Dyson. So he followed his intuition. Like his entrepreneurial peer Elon Musk, Sir James will be counter cultural and counter-intuitive in the car industry. It is about doing things either not tried before and finding a different approach to get positive results.

The difference between them however, is that Dyson is a seasoned corporate industrialist and Musk is still learning on the job how to be one. Elon has extensive experience running a company, no doubt, but never built things before Tesla. His claim to fame and fortune was Paypal. Dyson has been doing industrial for decades, from supply chain, labor issues, to final assembly. Sir James is the primary visionary for his company, but unlike Elon, he does not run his company day to day as he is the Chief Engineer. He envisions while he leaves company running things to professional CEO’s. Obviously he’s older than Elon by about 24 years, the same difference between my dad and me, so Sir James has the experience, wisdom, and wherewithal to know the boundless abilities and limits of building things. I bet they can learn from each other the mistakes they’ve made in their lives.

Dyson’s Secret Sauce

You would laugh in disbelief if someone told you that a vacuum company wants to start building cars. What does a vacuum have to do with anything related to a car? Well, if you gave it careful thought you’d see that it would make perfect sense, depending on a few important factors. While the manufacturing process between a gasoline and an electric car are similar in some ways, the materials needed to build either are very different, other than the tires, wheels, body/framing, suspension, the interior, and yes even the electrical system. With electrics they have more in common with your washing machine or vacuum than they do your Ford parked on the curb or driveway.

With that in mind, Dyson has the essential apparatus in place that builds him many of the household appliances we already use for some of those technologies and apparatus to be retooled or converted or altered to also manufacture electrical and non-electrical parts for electric car assembly. Because of the rechargeable appliances he already makes, he holds key patents not in obsolete lithium ion technology, but in the newer state of the art solid state battery technology. He has at least one electric motor assembly plant in Singapore. To build the electric cars themselves, all he needs is a long assembly line for final assembly. Dyson himself has experience doing massive changes to supply chains, so altering a chain for an electric car shouldn’t be as difficult.

About the Tech Center at Hullavington

The Hullavington facility will become Dyson’s technology center and its university for educating and recruiting future engineers. There are currently about 300 employees there working on discovering and improving Dyson technology, but as the car program expands he’s looking to hire an additional 300. The center has a capacity to employ an additional 2,000 workers, and worldwide Dyson has about 7,500 people working for him, less than half overseas. That they added a test track from an airfield in England, such a British industrial thing to do as if they’re preparing a counter assault to another Blitz, it is telling where they are in their manufacturing process: “Our growing automotive team is now working from Dyson’s state-of-the-art hangars at Hullavington Airfield,” CEO Jim Rowan said in a website statement. “We are now firmly focused on the next stage of our automotive project strengthening our credentials.”

What a Test Track Means

It looks like Dyson is ready to move his car program to the next phase, and if it’s about some kind of racetrack, he’s ready to move somewhere close in between the end of design phase and toward the beginning of preproduction. When developing any kind of car there comes a time when you need a dedicated track to do testing, especially with electric cars. Driving on the street and the expressway can only get you so far with what you have do, and at the end of design phase the car may not be safe enough to drive on the streets for testing. At preproduction when the car finally starts to take shape to look something close to being in your garage, especially during the testing phase of a new model, the less prying eyes you have, the better. A test track allows you to take the test mule (test car) up to high speeds without fear of hitting something or someone, and you at the very least can test to see how hot the batteries become, how the car performs, etc. which is one of the biggest issues when developing an electric car.

The famous track in Germany called Nurburgring, or “the ring,” is when you’re ending preproduction and not only are you about ready to make the car, you’re just picking out the bugs on it, but it’s ready to show off to the media and get customers excited. Like Porsche is doing right now out here with Taycan, they want to flirt it and show it off, because if your circling at Nurburgring you’ve got the right stuff. That’s being a showoff, but Porsche can do that and is expected actually to do so. It will be telling if Dyson has the kind of cars that can do that.

What’s interesting about Hullavington is that its track has both paved and non-paved portions which are perfect conditions to test things like antilock braking, or drivetrain systems, like AWD, FWD, and 4x4 if Dyson should decide to make such vehicles or variants thereof. If his vehicles are anything like his appliances he’ll employ the use of many and different kinds of plastics or lighter weight materials like carbon fiber, to keep the car light weight to help range and performance. Regardless of materials, any electric car maker worth their salt will eventually do extreme climate testing, and in the winter season before any phase of production, he’ll send test mules up further in Northern Europe or Canada to do cold weather testing to see how his solid state batteries perform. For hot climes, he’ll have his team take their mules to go to places like Northern Africa, Central Australia, or California’s Death Valley to test under extreme heat conditions.

From My Dyson to Your EV

This may sound like a vacuum review but I do this to give a glimpse of what we should expect from a Dyson car, with what the man has already given me with my recent purchase: an Animal 2 Dyson Ball Bagless Hepa Filter vacuum. I recently needed a vacuum for my mostly wall to wall apartment. So I caved after research and shopping to buy a Dyson Animal 2. Man was it expensive around $400, (on sale mind you) but it was worth it. So I’m expecting Dyson Animal EV won’t be cheap either. So I’m hoping that Dyson will have an annual Trooping of the Colours Sale on their cars. Animal 2 is plasticky that I’m hoping a Dyson car isn’t in a GM sense, but there is a build quality to it despite its plastic construction that it seems not to come from China. It has a fit and finish to it that everything snaps and clicks where and how it should be.

Like the occasion when you get inside a new Mercedes Benz model to look around at the panel and instrumentation before driving, you can tell that everything on this vacuum was well thought out and carefully planned. On the see-through dust collector is a label that says “Strongest Suction of Any Vacuum.” It seems as if it is saying, “The Best or Nothing,” in a Mercedes kind of way. I hope that’s true. What I most like about my Dyson is how easy it is to switch from floor mode to hose mode and back, and that the hooks, switches, and connectors make the transition and tool use very easy. I truly do hope that if it doesn’t have run-flats, changing a tire on an Animal EV is just as easy. Same thing, switching from economy to sport mode. Thank goodness, just like the vacuum, no more oil.

And finally as if I’m praying to hope Sir James can hear me, I’m hoping one of his three cars will be something less about a London cab (you can save that for the SUV, or the next Royal State Car you’ll eventually be asked to make, trust me) and more about something we just don’t see coming out of Great Britain as lately and in large numbers. Please make something at least close to Emma Peel’s blue Series 3 Lotus Elan done up Dyson style of course, electric plug and all. And please put something purple and see-through inside the frunk or boot to remind me where and how this all started, with my Animal 2 I love, and the sexy electric British roadster I’m hoping a Dyson Animal EV will be.

Oh yeah, the name reminds me, and I’m hoping Dyson names their cars like their appliances. Let Rolls Royce have their apparitions and Bentley their race tracks. An Animal is an Animal whether it sucks dirt, cleans something, or drives like a British badass down the road. It is what it is, starting with being a Dyson.

I wish Sir James and his company well.

What do you think of Sir James’ plans? Let us know below!