Tuesday, 23 October 2018 23:07

Dyson electric car on track for 2021 launch, manufacturing plans confirmed

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With a 400-strong team developing the vehicle on Dyson’s Campus at Hullavington Airfield, UK, and a "purpose-built production manufacturing facility in Singapore confirmed and due for completion in 2020", the Dyson car is coming.

Dyson, the company, and Dyson, the man, are remarkable examples of innovation and invention, not only finding and solving pain points we know of, but even coming up with solutions to problems we may have even forgotten were problems simply because we accepted the solutions on offer.

The best example of that is Dyson's very recent AirWrap hair styling wand, which disrupts an entire industry of hair curlers and stylers in a way that few would have expected, and brings genuine benefits to consumers, especially women, who want to style their hair and save a heck of a lot of time doing it – without damaging the hair in the way traditional electric hair styling products do.

Of course, Dyson long ago disrupted vacuum cleaners, so much so that after Dyson's patent expired, everyone has a "cyclonic" vacuum cleaner today, with Dyson's still the very best you can buy, while Dyson's hair dryer kicked off its haircare revolution and is still a very popular product.

Now comes the electric car, which Dyson revealed in 2017 that it was working on, with today's step of Dyson's board ratifying "a decision to construct its first advanced automotive manufacturing facility in Singapore" the next step in taking the car off the drawing board and onto roads, with the "bespoke two-storey manufacturing facility scheduled for completion in 2020".

We're told the project "demonstrates the international nature of Dyson’s operations", which are vast.

After all, it was only earlier this year that Dyson announced it was "in the process of investing £200 million in new buildings and testing facilities at its campus at Hullavington Airfield, UK", which isn't even 10% of Dyson's "£2.5 billion investment in new technology globally". Convert that into Australian dollars, and we're talking more than $4.6 billion.

Writing to Dyson staff, Jim Rowan, chief executive of Dyson, said: "Dyson’s growing automotive team is making excellent progress from the state-of-the-art hangars at Hullavington Airfield in Wiltshire where we are investing £200m. Clearly we now need to move quickly towards manufacturing and assembly.

"The decision of where to make our car is complex, based on supply chains, access to markets, and the availability of the expertise that will help us achieve our ambitions. I am delighted to let you know that the Dyson Board has now decided that our first automotive manufacturing facility will be in Singapore. We will begin construction in December and it will be completed in 2020, meeting our project timeline.

"Our existing footprint and team in Singapore, combined with the nation’s significant advanced manufacturing expertise, made it a frontrunner. Singapore also offers access to high-growth markets as well as an extensive supply chain and a highly skilled workforce. Singapore has a comparatively high cost base, but also great technology expertise and focus. It is therefore the right place to make high quality technology loaded machines, and the right place to make our electric vehicle.

"Dyson’s history in Singapore began 11 years ago with a small engineering team developing our high speed, digital, electric motors. We have grown significantly since then, we now employ 1,100 people, and have made over fifty million high-speed Dyson Digital Motors in Singapore.

"Our RDD teams at both the Singapore Technology Centre and the Advanced Manufacturing Centre have developed world-leading knowledge and represent Dyson at its best. Singapore is central to our future and we expect to more than double our team there.

"Dyson is truly global in its development, delivery and realisation of technology. This decision is good news for the exceptional teams we have in both the UK and Singapore. It is a fast-moving, exciting, and pivotal project for Dyson; thank you for all you are doing to help us realise our ambitions."

Dyson is, of course, an incredible company, one which would probably even give Apple pause should Dyson ever decide to get into smartphones, unlikely though that would be given Dyson is looking at electric cars and presumably all manner of other products in need of disruption and pain-point elimination.

The company's total UK headcount has increased 2.5 times over the last five years to 4800, with what is dubbed "the iconic former Ministry of Defence airfield at Hullavington" already employing a team of 400 and represents a £200 million expansion.

We're told the Campus at Hullavington is located "close to Dyson’s Malmesbury campus where Dyson employs over 4,000 Dyson people, including the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.

"Through The Dyson Institute, Dyson is making a £31m investment into higher education to help overcome the shortage of engineers in the UK. The four year degree programme, free of tuition fees, covers the fundamentals of engineering in years one and two.

"It delivers electronics and mechanical engineering content in years three and four – all alongside a paid job as part of Dyson’s research and development team, working on real products, with leading engineers and scientists."

As for Dyson's operations in Singapore, it currently employs "1100 people across its new Singapore Technology Centre at Science Park One and its Advanced Manufacturing Centre at West Park where it manufactures 21m motors a year on autonomous production lines".

"Dyson draws on Singapore’s pool of highly skilled engineers and scientists, developing Dyson’s latest technologies as well as core robotic and software expertise.

"The production manufacturing facility will build on Dyson’s existing advanced motor and battery expertise in Singapore and draw on the nation’s expertise in Research & Development, advanced manufacturing, automation and access to supply chains."

We're told that the location was chosen due to:

  • Proximity and access to high-growth markets.
  • Ready access to a supply chain of advanced materials and components.
  • Availability of highly-skilled engineers and scientists
  • Advanced manufacturing capability

So, there you have it. Who knows whether Apple's electric car will be ready by then, or where Tesla and the rest of the existing automative industry will also be by 2021, but you can be sure that a Dyson car will be built with all of the rigour, quality control and comfort that Teslas aren't, with a founder who is the polar opposite of Elon Musk, while also being incredibly successful.

No doubt any Dyson electric car will need an internal computing system as impressive as Tesla's, and will need to compete against the might of Apple's iOS and any future Car OS it is building, but if anyone can build an electric car to take on the world, and win, Dyson certainly can, so I wish the company success in its endeavours as the world needs the best competitors possible, and Dyson, like Apple, is definitely among those!

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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