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Inside James Dyson's all-or-nothing quest for an electric car
« on: August 08, 2018, 08:59:46 pm »
For decades, James Dyson made his billions reinventing housework. Now 71, he’s targeting a new legacy - one that’s pitting him against Silicon Valley’s most enigmatic futurist, Elon Musk. But is Britain’s vacuum visionary risking his fortune? And just how far will he go to clean up in the cash-haemorrhaging world of electric cars?


Sir James Dyson – the billionaire inventor, turbo-bespectacled, closely buttoned, best known for things that suck and things that blow, but specifically ones that do each very well – took to a stage in early March 2018 in the Meat-packing District of New York and began to tell the crowd about how his latest product sucked like never before.

The item in question was a vacuum cleaner called the V10. (Dyson products tend to have names you suspect engineers coined; this is not unrelated to the fact, as Dyson himself admits, that, “The company is run by engineers now. The CEO is an engineer. All the product directors are engineers.”) It was the latest in Dyson’s range of “stick” battery-powered vacuums, which is to say it is more like a gun you fire at the floor, complete with trigger, than a hulking machine you push around. The difference has seen some unexpectedly comic consequences – when a couple buy one, for instance, the man will often start taking up cleaning duties.

“Hello,” Dyson said, arriving to light clapping. “That’s very kind. Now...”

The V10, he said, has to be precisely built by more than 300 robots and not touched by a human hand, he explained, as the motor, when spinning, produces a lateral force of about two tonnes – any slight wonk could see it fly through a nearby wall. It was now so good, he added, that Dyson would no longer develop any vacuums that plugged in. At this, there was some more light clapping.

Dyson took a clicker and began pointing at 3-D models of vacuum parts on a screen behind him. “Now, in the middle there you can see a very dull silver thing and, actually, it’s anything but dull. It’s a very powerful neodymium magnet that...”

Dyson product launches are a curious thing – a mixture of mythmaking self-regard (to get to the main emporium you must first pass a number of white plinths, each with a different age of Dyson vacuum on top, like the evolution of man wallchart, but about suction power), world-class innovation (when it comes to things that suck and blow) and the sight of an elderly gentleman vacuuming on stage to almost total silence.

“Now, with that,” said Dyson, after spending half an hour explaining each part’s function and design in detail, “I’d like to give you a little demonstration...”

Quote from: James Dyson
I like living on a knife edge. It gets the adrenaline going

He powered the vacuum up and went to work on the sample surfaces. “Hard floors... a different type of hard floor... and back onto the carpet again... Venetian blinds... I’ve got a nice line of coffee here I’m going to have a go at... and then there’s the furniture...”

Five months earlier, around 2,500 miles away in California, another well-known inventor also showcased a new product. Actually, he showcased two. The first was a new range of trucks. Elon Musk, dressed in jeans, black T-shirt and light jacket, drove the first of his Tesla convoy onto a stage while a crowd whooped maniacally, spotlights flashed and smoke filled the air. He said the new Tesla all-electric Semi would go 0-60 in five seconds (“Whoo!”), that it had a range of 500 miles (“Yeah!”) and cost almost half that of a diesel truck to run. But the best was yet to come – out of the back of one of the trucks sprang Tesla’s new flagship e-car: the Model 2 Roadster, which could do 0-60 in under two seconds and boasted a top speed of more than 250mph, making it the fastest road car in the world. More importantly, it had almost double the range, at 620 miles, of Tesla’s previous flagship car, the Model S. The leap was significant: it would beat most full-tank petrol cars hands down.

On stage, Musk said, “This is a hard-core smackdown to gasoline cars!”

People shouted and screamed and gasped and one man, overcome, cried. The crowd burst through the barriers as Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” came crashing through the speakers. Four months later, exactly one month prior to Dyson’s demonstration, Musk completed the PR offensive by shooting the previous Roadster Model, in fact his own car, into space, via his other company, SpaceX. The car is currently on its way to Mars.

Quote from: GQ
Dyson has a wistful smile, even as he contemplates his own doom

Seen from a distance, there’s not a lot that binds the brash 47-year-old Musk and the professorial Dyson, 71. One has been married three times, twice to the same person, divorced the same number and wants to die on Mars. The other has been married to the same woman for 50 years and presumably would rather stay at Dodington Park, his Georgian estate in South Gloucestershire. One became a billionaire almost overnight after he invented a single piece of payment software (what would later be known as PayPal); for the other, it took decades, countless inventions, an ever-expanding workforce and tens of millions of products sold. Musk worries artificial intelligence will create “an immortal dictator from which we can never escape”. Dyson worries that the V8 vacuum’s head wasn’t quite good enough at picking up dust on hardwood floors. Musk recently went to war with the press and threatened to create a website to rank their honesty. Dyson still gets upset by a poor review in a Japanese consumer magazine, but “mostly because they’re right!”.

And yet, now, both are locked in what may be the most unlikely of corporate battles. Late last year, Dyson admitted that it, too, was planning to join Tesla as an automotive outsider attempting to beat the car companies at their own game and create the first truly mass-market electric car. Both vehicles would be available by 2020. It would be a footrace to the future. By 2040, the UK government has stated, the sale of all internal combustion engine cars will be banned.

For Dyson, it was the first time in the company’s history it could even contemplate such a thing. Only now had Dyson, that most British of success stories – an institute of ground-breaking tech that is almost solely used to clean up after yourself – sold enough vacuum cleaners and hair-dryers and hand-dryers and air purifiers and fans to take on the electric car, a project Dyson had always personally dreamed of.

Last year, his company’s revenue rose 40 per cent on the year before, which itself was up 40 per cent on the year before that. Dyson – both the man and the company; the balance sheet is the same, as the company remains wholly privately owned – is now worth £9.5 billion and so has promised at least £2.5bn to the car project, though most experts agree that, in reality, that’ll just be the start.

They point, naturally, to Musk. Not long after he sent his Roadster into space, Tesla posted its largest ever quarterly loss, some £505 million. In total, it’s thought that Tesla has burned through anywhere up to £20bn of borrowed money, along with millions of Musk’s own. Last year, in just three months, it lost nearly as much (about £2.1bn) as Dyson is pledging. Every week brings new rumours of bankruptcy.

The Financial Times therefore put Dyson’s dilemma starkly: “The £2bn gamble is the appliance maker’s boldest yet, one that will either grow to define the brand as it dwarfs its other products – or drain its resources and potentially plunge it into oblivion.”

I put the line to Dyson himself. He pauses briefly. “Maybe they’re right.”

Sitting in his corner office, in the sprawling Dyson campus in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, James Dyson is by turns laconic, excited, excitable and in a certain light – boasting small, round, thick-rimmed glasses that feel a little on-the-nose for an inventor – resembles an Aardman Animations version of himself.

He is unfailingly polite, quick to correct and has a wistful smile even as he contemplates his own potential doom.

“Because I haven’t sold any shares,” he says of the risks, “my wealth is tied up in the business and so I quite like living on a knife edge. It gets the adrenaline going. It is an odd thing to do, I think. It’s not for everyone... but the adrenaline of taking a big risk, of living on the knife edge, it keeps you on your toes.

So why a Dyson car? And why now? To hear Dyson tell it, it was part coincidence, part calling.

The calling happened some time ago. After creating his cyclone vacuum in the early Nineties, he became more attuned to dirt and pollution around him and so found himself obsessed with diesel exhaust pipes. “All I could see and smell were these huge clouds of diesel exhaust coming out.” And so he started developing filters for them, using parts from his own vacuums. “In 20 minutes from a transit van,” says Dyson, “you could get nearly a cup of this black sud.”

But everyone said diesel was clean, so no one, Dyson says, was interested. “We gave up on it.”

The coincidence part came much later.

From a distance, all Dyson products look like variations on a theme. First the vacuum in 1991 (suck), then the first cordless vacuum in 2006 (suck), the Airblade hand-dryer later that year (blow), the bladeless Air Multiplier fan in 2009 (blow), the “360 Eye” robot vacuum cleaner in 2014 (suck), the ultrasonic humidifier in 2015 (mostly suck, some blow), the air purifier in 2016 (suck and blow) and, later that year, the Supersonic hair-dryer (blow).

Yet all had made substantial leaps in key technologies.

The latest Dyson motor, for instance, used in its V10 cordless vacuum, spins at 125,000rpm – which is around eight times faster than the engine of an Formula One car and ten times faster than a jumbo jet. The magnet inside it gets so hot that it grows. Machine learning and advanced AI are used to control the spin. The main problem for a recent model, I’m told, was sourcing an aerospace-grade carbon-fibre sleeve that could house something that ran so fast and so hot (it eventually worked out that a particular fishing rod manufacturer did the best ones, and it now provides the company with several million a year). Manufacture is fully automated and Dyson can produce one every 12 seconds. It’s a design Dyson and his team have been refining for more than 20 years.

The latest Dyson air purifier, meanwhile, works simultaneously as air-conditioning unit and pollutant scrubber, able to detect 99.97 per cent of microscopic allergens and pollutants as small as 0.3 microns. It automatically detects them and turns itself on as needed. (The company’s recent profit surge is partly down to the device’s popularity in pollution-heavy cities in Asia. Some customers, on YouTube, have delighted in breaking wind near it and watching as it whirs to the rescue.)

And the 360 Eye Dyson robot vacuum uses ground-breaking panoramic camera technology and advanced artificial intelligence to learn more about your home the longer it lives in it and can successfully navigate your socks. (“But can it pick up your socks?” I joke to lead robot engineer Mike Aldred. “Well, it’s a genuine problem, isn’t it? Everything we’re looking at.” Wait. What? Really? “The amount of preparation someone has to do. Yeah, we’re looking at it.”)


In just a few years, Dyson realised it possessed nearly all the major technologies required for an electric vehicle, just in miniature, and in the broom cupboard.

An electric motor no one else could rival (“There’s no reason why it can’t be scaled up,” Dyson design engineer Dave Vaughn tells me. “It’s just a case of using different materials that are stiffer and lighter.” “We have motors no one else can do,” adds Aldred), a self-driving vision system forged in the fire of the hardest navigational environments on earth (teenagers’ bedrooms) and an air filtration system that wouldn’t just eliminate uncomfortable smells from the car’s passengers (though it very much would do that), but would be actively cleaning the outside air it sucked in (Dyson: “It’s the car in front of you that’s the problem”). The company already made six per cent of the rechargeable batteries in the world.

Dyson even speculated that the same technology it uses in its Airblade hand-dryer – where two ultra-fine 400mph room-temperature air jets scrape water off your hands rather than drying them with heat – could be put to use to replace windscreen wipers. (“The trouble with wipers is that they brush the muck back and forth across the screen. Eventually it causes scratches in the glass. Instead of a strip of rubber – which needs to be regularly replaced – wiping the screen, you’d have an invisible jet of air moving across it.”)

And so, he pitched the idea to the one person he always did – himself (“Sometimes that’s quite difficult”) – and decided why not? Screw it. Let’s do it.

“Yes, I just thought we ought to be making a car, as simple as that. One gets passionate about it because of technology. You realise what the technology could do. With motors, if you can magically change the technology, you can magically change a product.”

Details are scarce and Dyson is fearful of giving too much away (“I won’t!”). But this much we know: it won’t be a sports car. Like all Dyson products, it’ll be high-end (“We’re not going in at the [Nissan] Leaf end of the market”). Like all Dyson products, it won’t be cheap (“Maybe the better figure is how much deposit you put down”). The first model will have “some” driverless features in it (“Level two, not level three yet”). He suggests it might not even look like a car as we know one: “What we’re doing is quite radical.”

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Re: Inside James Dyson's all-or-nothing quest for an electric car
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 09:01:03 pm »
Like all electric cars, he says, efficiency and aerodynamism will be paramount. (This is why Teslas have door handles that sit flush; even the smallest drag depletes battery range. Dyson points out that his company are already experts in airflow.)

The main thing, Dyson says, is that the idea of a car will need to be rethought. A Dyson car shouldn’t be built like a car with an internal combustion engine, as all the others are (“This new technology is different and the cars should be different”). Its look, like all Dyson products, will be dictated by its engineering. And like all Dyson products, says Dyson, the company would only do it if it felt it could do something that radically rethinks what that thing fundamentally is.

“It’s a dream come true for James,” says concept director Stephen Courtney. “It’s got so many touch points. It’s massive. And, yes, it means for a while we do less other stuff, because we’re going to focus on this one real big bet.”

Airblade hand-dryer: Dyson has said that instead of rubber windscreen wipers, which “brush the muck back and forth”, the technology in its hand-dryer, which scrapes water from your hands with fine 400mph jets, could be used to wipe the windscreen instead.

I ask Courtney if it feels like a bet. “It’s always risky. You don’t know what you don’t know. You hear Toyota are having huge problems just because of a car mat or something. But companies that don’t push the boat out shrink. So we take big risks.” What it’s working on for the car, says Courtney, “involves all sorts of exciting stuff”.

But the main reason, Dyson says, was down to a rare investment he’d made around six years ago, in buying a company that was rumoured to have made a breakthrough in the cutting-edge area of solid-state batteries. A technology – if it worked, if it could be mass-produced – that is not only much safer than current lithium ion battery technology, but could, potentially, provide double the range of any existing electric car on the market, while also taking up less space. If it worked, it would be transformative.

“I came across,” Dyson says, “this little company in Michigan...”

Who is James Dyson?

He is a man who, most famously, supported by his wife’s salary as an art teacher, spent five years in his garage making 5,127 prototypes for his first vacuum cleaner.

He is a man who refuses to send more than six emails a day, on the basis that it means he will therefore get no more than six in return (“That’s Parkinson’s law,” he says, which has nothing to do with Michael, but everything to do with work expanding to fill the available time). When we meet, in the late afternoon, he’s sent exactly one. “I haven’t got time to send emails.”

Despite the fact that the Dyson campus is now 3,500 people strong, covers 56 acres and nine buildings, he disavows, I’m told, the use of maps, on the basis that people should get lost and therefore talk to each other. This is also why Dyson disapproves of email. (It is also why several company staff tell me they often get lost.)

He still arrives early, leaves late and, I’m told, was the only person who attempted to get in the building during the “beast from the east” cold snap in February 2018, when everyone else in Malmesbury was snowed in and the building was shut. (“We got a call,” a Dyson PR tells me, “saying, ‘James is trying to get into the building.’” Dyson: “Yes, that’s true. I did try to do that.”)

He was annoyed when Tony Blair coined the term “creative industries” (“That really annoyed me, because they weren’t industries. Publishing isn’t an industry. They don’t make things”). He currently owns more land in England than the Queen.

Quote from: James Dyson
There are sleepless nights now. This car really matters to me. It’s a big deal

He is an unashamed engineer and capitalist, one who has backed Brexit, he says, for the good of UK companies, which is perhaps easier when you’re worth £9.5bn and your No1 emerging market is the Far East.

How does he think Brexit is panning out?

“I would just walk away. We have offered lots. They’ve offered nothing. They’ve made a huge fuss about Ireland, which is none of their business. We are walking away and if you want to sell your cars and washing machines and your wine and Champagne to us, we’ll talk, but when you behave like this, we will not talk to you. The fast-expanding markets are in the Far East. Europe is declining. I have always said the Commonwealth countries are the ones we should be trading with first. They speak English. They used to like us. We understand them. They are huge, rich markets – Australia, Canada, India. Why aren’t we concentrating on those?”

His manufacturing plants remain in Singapore and Malaysia. Couldn’t they be in Britain?

“No. In Singapore 40 per cent of all graduates are engineers. They encourage it. They don’t encourage it here.” So not because it’s cheaper? “In Singapore the average wage is double that in England and the land four times the price.” It is fair to say that neither of these things are true of Malaysia.

He has not yet, he says, made a call on where the Dyson car will be made. “But I’ll have to soon.”

Dyson does not believe that businesses should pay tax on profits. He believes it should be far easier to fire people.

The culture at Dyson remains unique. Everything, including PR and marketing, remains in-house, virtually unheard of for a company of its size. It doesn’t have product designers; it has engineers who are asked to also think about design. “I hope we teach design here by osmosis.”

Dyson has a mantra: the lightbulb moment is rarely the lightbulb moment. “It’s how you make it work and that’s where the inventing comes in.”

And he is uncommonly patient. When Mike Aldred was hired by Dyson, along with his entire university research group, to build the robot vacuum, he set them a deadline of three years, which they met. “And it worked,” says Aldred. “It was better than anything else on the market. It was fantastic.”

But it was a little too heavy and wasn’t easy to manufacture, so Dyson said to them, “Let’s learn the lessons from this and start again.”

It would be another 14 years before Aldred produced one to Dyson’s liking.

Quote from: GQ
Dyson and Musk are throwbacks in an age of Silicon Valley app unicorns

Most simply and perhaps, seen from a distance, most importantly, Dyson is, along with Elon Musk, something of a throwback. In an age when Silicon Valley app inventors become overnight “unicorns” (ie, companies worth more than $1bn) – apps that often aim to connect people, but just as often result in the spread of low-wage work with no contracts, fewer guarantees and, on a deeper level, only pull people apart – Dyson remains a very British holdout. The inventor who still invents things.

“I like real products that do things,” he says simply, “ones that make life better. I’d much rather do that than develop software.”

Dyson still insists that everyone at his HQ makes physical prototypes of everything they do. He is not a fan of computer modelling. “When someone gives you a graph with results,” he says, “you don’t get it. You don’t see what went wrong. You need to see it fail.”

When testing its hair-dryer, industry standard dictated Dyson merely needed to trial how it dried a damp cloth. Instead, Dyson bought up every strand of hair on sale in the country – some 1,100 miles.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about Dyson, the company, is this: just 12 years ago, it was yet to produce anything that wasn’t a vacuum cleaner. Currently, Dyson estimates, it has around 200 projects actively being worked on in R&D, in a building made up of two-way mirrors and boasting fingerprint access. I was not allowed in.

Many of these projects concern the car. Four hundred staff work on it. Three hundred new staff are currently being hired. Just five years ago, Dyson says, it had half that. Five years before that, a handful.

It now invests £8m a week in research and development and has recently founded a Dyson university at their Technology Campus in Malmesbury, in order to check what Dyson sees as an imbalance in UK engineering graduates. From 2,500 staff eight years ago, it now employs 11,750 people around the world.

When I met Dyson, the first question I asked him was what kind of a company is his company now? A long answer ends with: “We’re a technology company, taking bigger and bigger bets on technology.”

In April he told Wired, “I don’t choose glamorous products [such as] iPhones, but products that people hate or almost despise.” Yet one senior Dyson staffer told me that, actually, “One of James’ biggest bugbears is screens breaking on phones. He’s like, ‘Why are they making phones they need to have in a case? I spent £700 on this phone.’” A senior Dyson engineer will later confide to me, “I think if we wanted to do a phone, we could probably do one.”

And, finally, Dyson is someone who still has sleepless nights.

He is often, he says, “Worrying, thinking, trying to solve problems... There are sleepless nights now. This car really matters to me. It really matters to all of us here. It’s a big deal. We want to get it right.”

At 71, he says, “I’m working harder than I ever have in my life.”

Quote from: James Dyson
"I think electric planes... batteries and planes are important."

The first cars were electric. We may not think it, but motorised power started clean. In the 19th century, carriages went horse-free using lead-acid batteries. Yet, as they boasted a top speed of around 9mph and a range of about 20 miles, they did not stay this way.

The first modern mass-produced electric car was made in the US by General Motors (GM) in 1996, following a California state mandate that dictated the seven major car companies had to offer electric vehicles in order to be allowed to sell their regular petrol cars.

Called the EV1, it was no powerhouse – it had a range of up to 100 miles and a top speed of 80mph – yet soon caught on with enthusiasts, who leased them for $300 a month (GM didn’t give the option to buy). As soon as the mandate was overturned, however, in 2002, GM called all the cars back, had about 40 models deactivated and sent to museums, 20 donated abroad for education and the rest crushed.

Californian filmmaker Chris Paine captured this early EV struggle in his 2006 documentary Who Killed The Electric Car? I meet him in London, where he is spending his summer holiday, outside the British Museum, where he is sightseeing.

While the ending of that documentary, he says, filled him with despair (“There was so much maleficence”), no sooner had he finished it than he began hearing what someone called Elon Musk was doing at a Silicon Valley startup called Tesla.

The follow-up film, Revenge Of The Electric Car, in 2011, charted Musk’s early struggles (a standout moment sees Paine following a horrified Musk around a warehouse full of faulty Teslas, each needing a different repair before they could be sent to customers and Paine spotting his own waiting there), along with the likes of Nissan (with the Leaf) and GM (with the Chevrolet Volt), as the EV race began in earnest. And now, he says, “Everyone is on board. No one wants to be left behind. It’s coming, big time. So I’ll have to do one a third [film]... Hey, in fact, we should put Dyson in it. Tell him that I’m interested.”

Quote from: Chris Paine
The car industry is tough. Maybe Dyson has a miracle in his back pocket

What was his reaction to Dyson getting into the EV race? “Awesome. So awesome.” Paine is an EV fan. “I wish he’d have gotten in earlier. But he’s waiting for a moment and this is his moment.”

Having seen Musk’s money troubles at Tesla, does Paine think the stated £2.5bn investment by Dyson is realistic to create a car?

“Oh, no. He’ll have to raise more money than that. It takes so much money, because you have to do compliance. You’ve got so many unknowns, even money for handling liability lawsuits. The car industry is tough.”

Dyson has about £9.5bn. Is that enough? “They could always borrow some,” he says.

Paine asks a rhetorical question: do I know how many car companies were started in the US between 1900 and today? No. “It’s a huge number,” he says. “And you know how many are left? About ten.”

He ponders: “I mean, maybe he’s got some kind of miracle in his back pocket.”

The Michigan battery company Dyson purchased in 2015 for £15m was Sakti3 and was Dyson’s first ever outside investment. Its founder, Ann Marie Sastry, visited the White House that year for its “Demo Day”. There, Barack Obama, upon learning that her company was working on a way to mass-produce this new technology of solid-state batteries asked her, “Have you solved it?” If she had, it would easily blow Tesla’s battery technology out of the water.

“We think so,” she replied, before adding, “We just had an investment from Dyson...”

In April last year, Dyson ditched all the patents that Sakti3 had filed while working out of the University Of Michigan, causing hysterical reactions in the tech press, with some claiming that Dyson had given up on the technology and that its purchase was now worth “little more than the value of the equipment in Sakit3’s Ann Arbor laboratory”.

Yet a battery expert I spoke to – who asked not to be named as he is working on rival solid-state battery technology – said that Dyson ditching those patents suggests quite the opposite.

“I think they’ve built on the technology. Not necessarily that they’ve gone in a different direction, but they have evolved it. I think he must have developed it into a different place. I think he’s moving towards something he believes he can launch.”

In a patent filed by Dyson Technology Limited some months before, UK patent application No2548361, one titled “Method Of Fabricating An Energy Storage Device”, after pages of technical information, states the following: “The invention provides a simple, fast and low-cost way of producing a solid-state cell.”

Musk had speculated that a battery breakthrough wasn’t about to happen “any time soon”. The patent, however, suggests it’s much sooner than he thinks.

So, I ask Dyson, is it ready?

“We hope so,” he says, not quite committing. “But you never know with these things. Problems can suddenly arise. It’s a complex thing to develop and it’s an even more complex thing to make.”

Has he ever met Musk, I wonder?


What does he think of him, generally? “I don’t want to pass an opinion,” Dyson replies.

Unlike Musk’s Tesla – which, like all car manufacturers, sources its parts from a variety of suppliers, something that in Tesla’s case has contributed to its well-publicised production problems – Dyson is planning the unusual step of making every part itself.

“Well, he’s not going to do every part,” says Paine when I tell him this at the British Museum. “He has to have a tyre maker.” (Dyson, however, suggests otherwise, as he plans to improve tyres too: “We ought to make tyres quieter.”)

It could also make Dyson’s controversial Brexit stance his secret weapon: increased EU tariffs could radically increase the cost of a car that sources parts across Europe. Dyson, manufacturing almost everything itself, possibly in Britain, possibly in China or Malaysia or Singapore, wouldn’t be affected in the slightest.

Dyson files new patents every week, but here’s how its first electric car could crib from past successes.

“It would be easy to over-engineer a car,” he says, “I want to make it lean engineering.”

Does a fully working Dyson car exist?

“Well, no. There will be one soon. But not yet, not a complete running car at the moment, no.”

But soon?


Is 2020 still realistic for the first car?

“Yes. In 2020 we’ll launch it and actually sell it in 2020 or 2021.”

Dyson speaks about the car as a dream project, one years in the making, one that combines everything Dyson has ever done. But, I’m told, with the solid-state technology, there might be a bigger dream to come.

When I ask the individual working on rival solid-state battery technology what the main application would be, he doesn’t dwell on cars, but planes.

“I would say aviation,” he says. “Because they’re so safe. Unlike lithium ion [batteries], they’re not flammable. If your laptop or your car catches fire, that’s bad. But on a plane, that’s a different league. And so for the aerospace industry that would be really interesting.”

At the campus in Malmesbury, Dyson – a self-confessed plane fanatic – has a Harrier Jump Jet, saved from the sea, outside the main entrance, a Concorde engine in a breakout space, and an ex-RAF XM173 that hangs from the ceiling in the canteen (I’m told when it was first installed people were wary of sitting underneath and so would form a neat plane-shaped outline around it). Two years ago, at the annual company fancy-dress party, I’m told Dyson went as one of the Wright brothers. Last year, he went as a pilot.

As I’m about to leave, Dyson shows me a map of the two huge buildings in the village of Hullavington, not far from the main Malmesbury campus, to where production of the car will soon move – they are huge Second World War aircraft hangers, positioned next to a runway – the site spans a massive 750 acres. The runway, he says, is staying.

Could we see, I ask, a Dyson electric plane at some point?

“Yeah,” he replies simply and quite surprisingly with a grin. “Yeah... I think electric planes... batteries and planes are important.”

And, after all, what an irony it would be: that Dyson, that most British and domestic and utilitarian of companies, one whose products we’re so used to using while looking down, may suddenly make us look to the skies.


Offline ryevac

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Re: Inside James Dyson's all-or-nothing quest for an electric car
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2018, 11:04:26 am »
Interesting read.
i think the electric car will have a limited duration, still have problems with mass weight, friction from wheel to surface & battery depletion.
I remember seeing Mollers flying transport prototypes years ago, and followed it since then.

This is the answer - people may think i am mad but i still think Moller is right, and far ahead of his time.

The fundamentals of travel need to change, traffic congestion, road maintenance etc etc has never changed since day one - it started with horse and cart thousands of years ago and still continues as the conventional motor vehicle is stuck in the same rut.
I think dyson is thinking along the above lines. ?
why do we still build square houses ? (bloody romans)

why do we generally sleep at night and work in the day ?

Money will eventually go all electronic like it or not ?

Change is coming, but being held back by the massive corporations controlling fuel / oil etc
The only way to fail is not to try.

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Re: Inside James Dyson's all-or-nothing quest for an electric car
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2018, 08:01:08 pm »
I was always doubtful about electric cars, but a lady we know has bought one (you'll know of her if you know your 80s Tory politicians and/or people who were in "The Jungle" on TV). I've been out in it and had a general mooch around it and I got to discuss some of the science with two blokes from Tesla. And I came away thinking they are a proper thing.

The torque is amazing. The silence is eerie. Battery life is such they are perfectly usable. I came away with a different point of view (as Johnny Cash once sang).

Offline ryevac

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Re: Inside James Dyson's all-or-nothing quest for an electric car
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2018, 10:20:29 am »
Looks good, it is the way forward... and prices need to come down.
I will continue working on my converted golf buggy for now...
The only way to fail is not to try.

Offline Madrat

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Re: Inside James Dyson's all-or-nothing quest for an electric car
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2018, 10:49:02 pm »
Electric cars have there place but they are not the solution to everything, charge time is to long and battery life is not the best, no good for driving instructors, towing, long distance etc. I think Hydrogen is a better answer be it a fuel cell or just available at filling stations.



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