Dyson electric car: solid state battery exec departs firm

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Dyson is famous for its vacuum cleaners but will produce a car by 2020

Dyson’s electric car project has received support from the Government and features former Aston Martin employees

Dyson has confirmed to Autocar that the executive behind its solid state battery technology has departed the company – a surprise twist that follows the brand’s recent announcement to produce an electric car model by 2020.

A spokesman said that “Ann Marie Sastry is no longer with Dyson”, but refrained from explaining why, stating that the company doesn’t “get into specifics on personnel matters”. Sastry joined Dyson when it purchased her battery company Sakti3 for $90 million (about £67.4 million) two years ago.

Although there remains much secrecy behind the technology it has developed, Sastry previously suggested that the company was close to bringing solid state batteries to production – a feat that could secure Dyson first place in the global race for more efficient batteries.

Solid state battery packs have a higher energy density, are quicker to charge than liquid-cells, cooler while operating and potentially more powerful. Toyota is the only manufacturer with firm plans to introduce the technology in the coming decade, while Porsche has hinted that solid-state electric vehicles are in its product plans.

It is not yet known what impact Sastry’s departure will have on progress to the Dyson car, which marks a leap for a brand that is best known for making household goods like hairdryers and vacuum cleaners.

The car’s development will be funded by £2 billion from Dyson and the project has received support from the UK Government. A team of 400 people are working on the project at Dyson’s Wiltshire headquarters.

Dyson is keeping specific details, such as performance, range and production numbers, secret, but it will not be a mass-market car akin to the Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf; instead, it will be aimed at a more tech-oriented market. Dyson’s existing line of household goods are often more expensive than the competition, suggesting that the car’s market position will be firmly in the premium segment, similar to that of Tesla. Dyson also confirmed that more than one car would come of the project. 

Insight: why is Dyson launching an electric car?

There’s no definite word yet on where the car will be built, but Dyson recently revealed to Reuters “Wherever we make the battery, we’ll make the car, that’s logical. So we want to be near our suppliers, we want to be in a place that welcomes us and is friendly to us, and where it is logistically most sensible. And we see a very large market for this car in the Far East.”

Dyson has a large market presence in the Far East, so Chinese production isn’t an unrealistic prediction, although the car will be developed in the UK. No design or prototype has yet been produced. 

In the announcement of Dyson’s electric car plan, Sir James Dyson took swipes at governments’ push for diesels and the Dieselgate emissions scandal: “Governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants. Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations. As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses. It is a problem that others are ignoring.”

He revealed that a major aim is to reduce air pollution from cars “at the source”, saying: “I committed the company to develop new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating. At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product.

“We’ve started building an exceptional team that combines top Dyson engineers with talented individuals from the automotive industry. The team is already over 400 strong and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing £2bn on this endeavour.”

Unlike other long-rumoured car projects from Apple and Google, Dyson’s car will be Dyson-badged, rather than the plans having been commuted to components of other cars, like Google’s Waymo project, or Apple’s autonomous car efforts. Dyson will go it alone in making the car, much like future rival Tesla, and is not planning to seek help from other manufacturers to put the car into production. 

Flashback: Sir James Dyson on what cars really need

The firm is famous for its vortex vacuum cleaner but has been linked to the development of a car for almost a decade, despite having repeatedly denied the project’s existence.

A Dyson spokesman previously told Autocar: “James [Dyson] did say that our new digital motor could power a car, but we are not working on, and have no plans to create, an electric car.” Dyson has been working on producing a car since the eighties. 

In the run up to announcing the car, Dyson upped the rate of development with the hiring of several high-profile figures from the automotive market. Dyson has been interested in the filtration of diesel emissions for more than two decades. 

Dyson hired Aston Martin‘s former director of purchasing, David Wyer, to become its head of procurement in August. Wyer was the second Aston Martin executive in as many years to head to Dyson after product development director Ian Minards moved to the same role at the Wiltshire-based company. 

Wyer confirmed his exit from Aston Martin on professional social media site LinkedIn, saying: “So, after 22 years at Aston Martin, today is my last day as I leave one great company to take up an exciting opportunity with another, as head of procurement at Dyson.”

The move caused a stir, as did Dyson’s hiring of Tesla communications executive Ricardo Reyes earlier this year, fuelling a resurgence in speculation around the British company’s development of an electric car.

Last year, speculation was stirred up when a government document read: “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.”

Soon after, the document was altered to say: “The Government is providing a grant of up to £16m to Dyson to support research and development for battery technology at their site in Malmesbury.”

Read more: 

Insight: why is Dyson launching an electric car?

Flashback: Sir James Dyson on what cars really need

Dyson car: former Aston Martin product development director joins Dyson

Dyson denies electric car rumours

Aston Martin appoints former Ferrari innovation boss



Source: Autocar Online

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