Dyson has pulled the plug on its electric car project, two years after the British company announced its intentions to shake up the automotive sector.
In an email to the company’s staff, founder Sir James Dyson admitted the company had struggled to find a buyer for the project in a fiercely competitive industry.
“Though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable,” Sir James wrote in an email to staff on Thursday, as reported by the Financial Times.
“We have been through a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far.”
Dyson announced it was working on a £2bn electric car project in September 2017, born from years of frustration with the automotive industry “not changing their spots” when it came to addressing pollution.
The vehicle, which was planned to run on solid state batteries rather than the current industry standard liquid lithium-ion cells, had been initially planned to go on sale in 2020.
Last October the company announced it would open its first automotive manufacturing facility in Singapore in 2020, with a view to launch the car in 2021.
Patents published in May suggested the car’s driver may have been required to adopt a reclining seated position while in the driver’s seat to facilitate a low cabin height and shallow windscreen angle, which would reduce drag while driving and also increase its driving range.
‘A very difficult decision’
Sir James admitted the closure of the automotive project had been a “very difficult decision”.
“This is not a product failure, or a failure of the team, for whom this news will be hard to hear and digest,” his email read. “Their achievements have been immense – given the enormity and complexity of the project.”
Alternative roles would be sought for as many workers employed on the car project as possible, he said, adding the company had sufficient vacancies to absorb most of the people into its home business.
“For those who cannot, or do not wish to, find alternative roles, we will support them fairly and with the respect deserved. This is a challenging time for our colleagues and I appreciate your understanding and sensitivity as we consult with those who are affected.”
The company will continue the investment programme by expanding the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology and its research into manufacturing solid state batteries, sensing technologies, vision systems, robotics, machine learning and AI.
“This is not the first project which has changed direction and it will not be the last,” Sir James concluded. “I remain as excited about the future of Dyson as I have always been; our ambitions have never been higher, our ability to invest has never been greater, and the team has never been stronger.”
Speaking to i in May, Sir James accused the government of “watering down” its commitment to electric vehicles after failing to take his advice to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030.
The British inventor, 72, said he met with prime minister Theresa May’s PPSs, (parliamentary private secretaries, who work on behalf of senior ministers in government) to discuss making electric cars compulsory a year ago.
“I said: ‘Why don’t you make electric cars compulsory by 2030?’. This was a year ago, so it gave the industry 12 years to adjust, build the charging points, etc,” he said.
“Two days later, they announce it’ll be 2040, 22 years on. It just seemed watered down, I don’t know why they watered it down. Maybe pressure from industry, I don’t know. But I thought that was a shame.”