In the wake of the shock announcement that Dyson was ending development of its headline-hitting electric car, we went behind the scenes at the project's headquarters to see what could have been.
Here, company boss James Dyson speaks candidly about why the project had to end, and what he could do next.
Did you have a name for your car?
“We struggled with that and in the end decided just to call it a Dyson. Maybe we’d have done something different when we had more than one version, but at first a name just seemed like a marketing distraction.”
Was your car good enough for production?
“I believe it was. The design was great and we were ready to go. The problems were commercial, not technical. Ian Minards did an amazing job building a 500-strong team and running things on time. Back in 2014, it was viable, too.”
You’re known for persistence at perfecting an idea. Could more persistence have worked here?
“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.”
Was it upsetting, closing down?
“It tore all our hearts out. We’d done great work and many people in the company were totally dedicated to it. It was awful, delivering the bad news.”
Could the car have worked in the long run?
“I believe several years down the line, if we could have got costs down, we would have been competitive. But getting there was the problem. The battery costs were one thing, but other costs were high, too. When you start something, suppliers charge you more. But in the long run, we could probably have had a good business.”
Is loss-making bad for the EV industry, or will the urgent need to cut CO2 drive it anyway?
“I think it’s really unfortunate everyone’s losing money. When new technology comes along, the ultimate answer is that the public has to see its value and pay. The government has subsidised things a bit – and that has helped – but they cut back recently, which was a pity. The kind of assistance we had is an easy way to do something big.”
What’s the key to making electric cars profitably?
“The battery, I suppose. Batteries and battery cooling are enormously expensive, much more so than internal combustion engines. The rule of thumb is that you take the cost of the battery cells (and our car has 8500 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. If you could overcome the technical issues around batteries, and make them cheaper, you could see a day when battery cars might be as cheap as ICE cars.”