James Dyson, seller of fancy vacuums and hair dryers, wanted to make an electric car. That’s not as far-fetched as it seems at first: the Dyson company’s innovation in electric motor power and efficiency lends itself well to that application. But after sinking half a billion dollars into research and development, the Dyson car project was cancelled in October.
Dyson was prepared to invest more than two billion dollars into the project, according to a recent article in The Sunday Times. But the projected cost of the crossover vehicle (approximately $150,000) meant that it would lack mass appeal. The economies of scale simply didn’t hold up. Part of that is because the car used a revolutionary power system: a solid-state battery, giving it a projected range of 600 miles. That would have almost doubled the range of Tesla’s similar all-electric crossover, the Model X.
Solid-state batteries aren’t a new idea, but their practical application in modern devices is an emerging part of the market. They use a solid metal as an electrolyte, rather than a liquid, like the lithium salt in the battery of the gadget you’re probably holding right now. This results in a huge battery life boost in a battery of the same physical volume, plus a massive reduction in recharging time, another hurdle for electric vehicles trying to break into mainstream car sales. Solid-state batteries are also safer, as they run cooler and don’t house toxic liquids.
Alas, while there’s an entire portion of the tech economy dedicated to conventional liquid-filled batteries, large-scale solid-state batteries are still at the prototype stage. Putting one in a commercial vehicle isn’t impossible, but it would put that vehicle well beyond the budget of most people considering a new car purchase. Apparently Dyson wasn’t interested in marketing exclusively to the Ferrari and Lamborghini crowd.
Dyson hopes to sell its research in battery and vehicle tech to an existing electric vehicle producer, but hasn’t been successful yet. Perhaps we’ll see a revolutionary cordless vacuum that suck dirt for hours on a charge before we see electric vehicles that can drive all day.