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Dyson claims to have sunk £500m of own fortune into cancelled EV project

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In an interview with The Sunday Times, Sir James Dyson revealed details of his company’s cancelled EV design, which included a battery claimed to have a range of almost 1,000km.

Dyson first announced in 2017 that it was investing £2bn in developing EV technology, with a view to launching its own EV in 2020. Half of the investment would go towards the vehicle and the rest would fund R&D in battery technology applicable to other products. In 2018, Sir James announced the company would build a manufacturing plant in Singapore to make the EVs.

In October 2019, Dyson announced that the project had been cancelled as it had not found a buyer for the project, leaving it “commercially unviable”.

Sir James has now spoken about the aborted project in an interview with The Sunday Times, which has placed the Dyson family at the top of its UK 'Rich List' for the first time, with an estimated personal worth of £16.2bn.

In the interview, Sir James revealed details of Dyson’s EV prototype (known internally as the N526), which he claimed Dyson engineers would have fitted with an impressive battery with a range of 600 miles (970km).

The SUV-style vehicle was almost the size of a Range Rover – more than 5m long, 2m wide and 1.7m tall – with vast tyres measuring 1m in diameter. The vehicle weighed approximately 2,600kg.

Sir James told The Sunday Times that he secretly tested a prototype of the vehicle himself, which went from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds. It had a pair of twin 200kW motors and could reach a top speed of 125mph (200km/h).

This model would have needed to sell for around £150,000 just to break even. This would have made the Dyson EV twice as expensive as a Tesla Model S and more expensive than a luxurious Porsche Turbo S Taycan or BMW i8 Roadster, making it a very hard sell for a complete newcomer to the automotive market and coming from a company best known for household appliances.

Sir James said that Dyson was not in a position to sell EVs at a loss: “I don’t have a fleet. I’ve got to make a profit on each car or I’d jeopardise the whole company. In the end it was too risky.”

Dyson said that he funnelled £500m of his own money into the project. He described the cancellation outcome as causing “huge sadness and disappointment”.

While the Dyson EV project was cancelled several months ago, Sir James said that he has kept on most of the 500 people who were working in the Dyson Automotive Division, continuing with work on battery technology, robotics, air treatment and lighting. He hopes Dyson can supply its solid-state battery technology to automakers, meaning that the impressive 970km-range battery could still potentially make its way onto the market in other EVs.

More recently, Sir James spent £20m of his personal fortune on the rapid development of a new ventilator intended for Covid-19 patients, which would have incorporated some existing Dyson parts. The UK government ultimately decided that the Dyson ventilator was no longer needed.

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