CEO Max Conze might have been trying to keep a lid on the extent of Dyson’s innovation plans, but government documents appear to have let the cat out of the bag.
The tech firm, which has been branching out beyond its vast range of vacuums, has secured government funding for work on ‘a new battery electric vehicle’ at its headquarters in Wiltshire. After Conze confirmed Dyson would spend £1bn on batteries by 2020 earlier this week, MT did have an inkling, though he had been cagey. Last year Conze said Dyson was ‘ruling nothing out’ and like Apple ‘are also unhealthily obsessive when it comes to taking apart our products to make them better’.
The firm’s execs are likely to be feeling confident after Dyson’s sales rose by over a quarter last year and profit was up nearly 20%. And there’s no doubt it’s becoming increasing well-regarded as a company when it comes to research and innovation. The government doc, within the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan, revealed the public funding and said it should be a boost to the area, securing '£174m of investment...creating over 500 jobs’.
But why electric cars? Many think they're where the automotive industry is headed (along with driverless cars - though they come with their own set of problems, not least liability) Tough emissions targets are being rolled out across the EU, so we are seeing manufacturers beavering away to develop electric and/or hybrid versions of their cars.
There’s also increasing consumer appetite for electric cars – figures from industry body the Society of Motor Manufactuers and Traders (SMMT) found registrations of pure electric vehicles were up 50% last year, while ‘alternatively fuelled vehicles’ had its biggest market share to date of 2.8%. But those aren't huge inroads, and usage of them will only inch up unless some of the drawbacks of electric cars are addressed. Mainstream take up of electric vehicles has been somewhat stalled because of battery constraints and limited availability of charging points.
Dyson's billion-pound bet on batteries suggest that it might have made some headway in that area, but even so it's a huge jump to go from from making vacuum cleaners to making cars. Founder James Dyson will need all of his legendary inventiveness and determination to pull this one off - let's hope that unlike its vacuum cleaner, the Dyson electric car doesn't suck.