EV fans all over the world could not hide their disappointment when gave up doing its electric car. What we heard in October 2019 was that is was not “commercially viable.” Autocar’s latest edition brings nine pages dedicated to the project and the man behind it, James Dyson. In an interview with Steve Cropley, Dyson clarified why he ditched the idea. His main point will cause as much storm in the EV world as the demise of the project itself.
According to Dyson, no electric car today makes money. On the contrary: all of them sell at a loss:
“The nub of the problem is that big car makers are now using their electric models to prop up their gas-guzzlers. That makes EVs unrealistically cheap. It affects Tesla, too, but they have Elon Musk’s billions to fall back on. We don’t.”
That is pretty much the same thing Bob Lutz repeats to anyone willing to ask him about electric cars. The difference is that it now comes from an entrepreneur that was willing to sell them with a revolution. That revolution is probably the reason for the Dyson EV to have died: it would take more time to arrive than the project could wait.
When Dyson first talked about this electric car, in October 2017, it promised it would have solid-state batteries. Less than one year after that, in September 2018, Dyson wrote off Sakti 3, which was in charge of developing these cells for the car. In May 2019, there were rumors about having this car with fuel cells or as a plug-in hybrid. These were the first signs that things were not going as planned.
Autocar revealed the car would have normal cylindrical lithium-ion cells. More precisely, 8,500 of them, placed in two layers inside the 150 kWh battery pack. They would form a 174-mm-tall stack. We now wonder how big each of these cells was: 18650 or 2170, like Tesla batteries?
In his interview, Dyson mentions the batteries are critical to bringing EV prices down.
“ The rule of thumb is that you take the cost of the battery cells (and our car has 8,500 of them) and double it for the electronics. Every cell has two laser-welded connectors. It’s madness! Then you have to cool them. Ironically, most of the cooling is only for the charging phase.”
The article mentions the battery pack was conceived to easily replace these regular cells with solid-state batteries as soon as they were available. When that eventually happened, the weight would fall drastically from the 2,600 kg it was supposed to have.
Simon Moores, from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, mentions this technology – or its lack, to be exact – could be the core reason for the project to be shelved.
Both the article and the interview – make sure you read them – clearly demonstrate that the Li-ion cells were a temporary solution for a car that was supposed to present solid-state batteries from the very beginning. Sadly, they would also make it cost £150,000 if Dyson was not to lose money with each unit sold.
The SUV would have a range of 600 miles. Surprisingly, what James Dyson was more proud of were the enormous 24-inch wheels, which would give the car some very competitive characteristics. The entrepreneur does not explain how they do it, which is a good sign that he may be waiting for the right time to eventually sell this car. Unfortunately, it is not now. Neither for Dyson nor any other company if he is right.
When Dyson says, “big car makers are now using their electric models to prop up their gas-guzzlers,” he probably refers to carbon credits, which some manufacturers sell. Tesla will fund the Giga Berlin solely with selling credits to FCA until 2023.
After that, FCA will already be merged with PSA. It may also benefit from a partnership with Nikola Motor Company. When every major carmaker has its own EVs to sell, who will buy carbon credits? All things considered – including what James Dyson had to say – a battery breakthrough has never been more important than it currently is.