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Dyson is canceling its ambitious electric car project

Billions of dollars in development later, Dyson will end its plan to produce an EV by 2021.

Dyson is canceling its ambitious electric car project
Dyson’s facility at Hullavington Airfield, which was built for development of its electric vehicle. [Photo: Fred MacGregor/courtesy Dyson]

While Tesla has been boisterously dragging the automotive industry into the electric age, it’s been easy to forget that Dyson—the engineering giant behind vacuums, air purifiers, and lighting—has been quietly investing billions into building an electric vehicle of its own that it aimed to bring to market as soon as 2021. It even opened a $260 million facility last year to develop and test said vehicle, which would ultimately be manufactured in Singapore. But, as the BBC first reported today, Dyson’s EV project is dead.

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In an statement from James Dyson emailed to employees and shared with Co.Design, the inventor described the company’s struggle to find a buyer for its design. “The Dyson Automotive team has developed a fantastic car; they have been ingenious in their approach while remaining faithful to our philosophies. However, though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to 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.” Dyson added that many of the project’s team members will be absorbed into the company’s Home division, and, “for those who cannot, or do not wish to, find alternative roles, we will support them fairly and with the respect deserved. This is a challenging time for our colleagues and I appreciate your understanding and sensitivity as we consult with those who are affected.”

The news is a shame for anyone who is interested in the potential of EVs, especially as there seemed to be a true excitement around the car inside Dyson. I met with Jake Dyson in 2016, when he first confirmed plans to eventually take over the company from his father. At the time, the Dyson electric car was still just a rumor, and when I asked him if Dyson was looking into an entirely new category of product, I saw a gleam in his eye—like he couldn’t hold the secret back. “The answer is yes,” he said. “A product that doesn’t exist? That’s something that’s happening at the moment as we speak. There will be something soon that you didn’t think you needed, that you really do need, basically. A product you wouldn’t imagine, be able to sit here and say, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had that?’ That is starting to happen. There are references to it. There’s a need for it. But generally, people won’t have recognized it.”

Was it the car that Jake was referring to? It’s hard to know. As James Dyson described in his letter to employees, the team’s car is very much a reality—and I, for one, am curious if we will ever see the design or hear just where the bottlenecks were in production.

The layout of the Hullavington R&D facility. [Image: courtesy Dyson]

Until that day comes, Dyson will be using one key component of the car’s technology in products moving forward—the battery. Dyson described applying the team’s learnings on solid state batteries to new technologies, including robotics, adding, “our battery will benefit Dyson in a profound way and take us in exciting new directions.”

The inventor’s full statement is below:

Dear Colleagues,

The Dyson Automotive team has developed a fantastic car; they have been ingenious in their approach while remaining faithful to our philosophies. However, though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to 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.

This is not a product failure, or a failure of the team, for whom this news will be hard to hear and digest. Their achievements have been immense—given the enormity and complexity of the project. 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. This is a challenging time for our colleagues and I appreciate your understanding and sensitivity as we consult with those who are affected.

Dyson will continue its £2.5bn investment program into new technology and grow The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology. We will continue to expand at Malmesbury, Hullavington, Singapore and other global locations. We will also concentrate on the formidable task of manufacturing solid state batteries and other fundamental technologies which we have identified: sensing technologies, vision systems, robotics, machine learning, and AI offer us significant opportunities which we must grab with both hands. Our battery will benefit Dyson in a profound way and take us in exciting new directions. In summary, our investment appetite is undiminished and we will continue to deepen our roots in both the UK and Singapore.

Since day one we have taken risks and dared to challenge the status quo with new products and technologies. Such an approach drives progress, but has never been an easy journey—the route to success is never linear. This is not the first project which has changed direction and it will not be the last. I remain as excited about the future of Dyson as I have always been; our ambitions have never been higher, our ability to invest has never been greater, and the team has never been stronger.

I am looking forward to our future adventures together.

Best wishes,

James.

We will continue to update this story as more details become available.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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