Dyson electric car: patents hint at new EV’s design

Patents give clues to the look of the new Dyson electric car, which could arrive as a seven-seat crossover

The first details of the Dyson electric car have emerged, after patents awarded to the firm were made public – and the British technology company appears to be considering seven-seat crossover with unusually large wheels for a vehicle of its size. 

The patents were filed 18 months ago, but the Patent Office has now approved and published them, revealing some of the ongoing thinking for the project which was first announced by company’s founder, Sir James Dyson, late in 2017.

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Dyson emailed the Auto Express office, stating: “The patents certainly don’t reveal what our vehicle will really look like, but they provide a glimpse of some of the inventive steps that we are considering. They suggest some of the ways in which this vehicle could differ from the status quo and depict a vehicle which has been developed, from the bottom up, with range and efficiency in mind from the outset.”

The profile drawings in the patents show a vehicle that appears to mix both SUV and saloon design traits – lifting the cabin space up (presumably to facilitate battery installation in the floor), while still keeping the roofline and centre of gravity reasonably low. As a result, the seats appear to be reclined significantly more than you’d find on many conventional SUVs.

The patent documents reflect this, saying: “The ground clearance of the vehicle in the illustrated embodiment is about 300mm, which is comparatively high as compared to saloon or sedan-like vehicles, although the front row of passengers are supported within the vehicle in a more low-down, sedan-like seating position”. And it adds, “The driver has a reclined seating position typical of a saloon or sedan vehicle.” 

Dyson is proposing to give the car a relatively long wheelbase – between 3,200mm and 3,350mm – to accommodate this; the firm says this could also help to improve ride quality, as well as allowing a larger battery pack beneath the cabin for increased range. 

Further documents say that the example vehicle could be between 1,600mm and 1,800mm high and that it would be “preferably between 4,700mm and 5,000mm in length”, and probably no longer than 5,100mm.

These numbers are indicative at best, but they would deliver a car that’s the same height as a Range Rover Sport but, potentially, longer overall than the full-fat Range Rover. The vehicle width “may be less than 1,975mm”, which would make it wider than a Velar but narrower than a Range Rover Sport.

The ground clearance envisaged by Dyson would be higher than the large Range Rover’s, though, and the proposed wheelbases could be longer than even that of a Rolls-Royce Cullinan.

Dyson’s patent document also says that the illustration shows a car with 24-inch wheels, and that the car may have wheels whose outer diameter comprises 45 to 55 per cent of the overall vehicle height. This is particularly clear from the front-on drawing of the illustrative vehicle, which shows how much of the wheel would be within the car’s body – and how the narrow choice of tyre would help minimise intrusion into the cabin. Dyson says this engineering choice would also help to avoid aquaplaning, give better grip in snowy conditions and reduce aerodynamic drag.

In Dyson’s email, he also told his employees, “I’ve long been fascinated by wheels and how they were used in engineering icons like the Issigonis Mini and the Moulton bike. I suppose we’ve essentially considered the opposite! The patents show a car with very large wheels, giving a low rolling resistance and high ground clearance. This makes a vehicle suited to city life and rough terrain, but could also contribute to increased range and efficiency.”

He does add, however, “It is important to keep this in perspective and remember that we do not always use patents or make products based on patents that we have filed.”

The documents make no reference to which battery technology the Dyson car will use. Dyson himself has previously stated that his team are evaluating a number of next-generation solid-state battery technologies, although there has been speculation that these systems may not be ready in time for the car’s arrival on the market, forcing the use of existing lithium-ion technology instead.

Dyson concluded his note to staff by saying the project is “on track to launch in 2021” although depending on his definition of “launch”, this may, in fact, represent a small delay compared with his initial statements, when he said, “We hope to bring out an all-electric car in 2020.”

Dyson electric car: Roland Krueger to lead project

The Dyson car project is to be led by former BMW and Infiniti boss Roland Krueger. Krueger, whose most recent position has been president of Infiniti and senior vice-president of Nissan, will be based at Dyson’s expanding facilities in Singapore, allowing him to oversee the construction and development of the company’s manufacturing base in the country. His departure from Infiniti-Nissan to “pursue other opportunities” was only announced a fortnight ago.

Jim Rowan, Dyson CEO, told Auto Express that Krueger would be an “excellent fit” for the British brand, which expects to start testing prototypes of its pure-electric car in 2020 and start selling it in 2021.

“Roland is experienced globally,” Rowan said. “He views the car industry as a global landscape, and that’s difficult to come by; he’s not attached to a particular region. He has knowledge of China, which is a key EV market, and he’s a designer by background but also understands commercial aspects.

“He’s a great fit for us – not just in terms of knowledge but also his style. He’s a disruptor. And based on his leadership, and the head of steam that we’ve already built up, we expect to go in and disrupt the car industry like we’ve done in other areas.” 

Dyson now has 450 people working on its EV project, mainly at its Hullavington technical headquarters, where a test facility is being constructed. Rowan said the firm was still “on track” to deliver the project on time, and confirmed that it will invest a billion dollars (£775million) in it during 2019 alone – although he admitted this figure would be spread across more than one country instead of being focused on Hullavington.

Rowan declined to provide further details, saying, “People are looking to see where in the market we intend to play – size, range, and so forth. That’s competitive information so we’re keeping that under wraps. And we’re not going to disclose exactly which battery technology will be in our vehicle.”

Dyson electric car to be built in Singapore

The new Dyson electric car will be produced at a factory in Singapore. The UK firm has 400 staff working in a Wiltshire R&D centre on its EV, however the new electric vehicle will be made in the Asian country, where Dyson already has a factory producing digital motors.

Construction has already begun on the new plant and it will be completed in 2020, in line with Dyson’s plans to start selling its electric vehicle by 2021.

In a letter to staff, Dyson’s CEO Jim Rowan said: “Singapore offers access to high-growth markets, as well as an extensive supply chain and a highly- skilled workforce. It has a comparatively high cost base, but also a strong bias towards developing and using advanced technologies.

“It is therefore the right place to make high-quality, technology-loaded machines, and the right place to make our electric vehicle,” Rowan added.

Dyson’s UK testing facility

Although construction of Dyson’s EV will take place in Singapore, the new car is being developed at Hullavington, an ex-RAF airbase in Wiltshire. Dyson submitted a new planning proposal to develop the facility, taking its investment in the site to more than £200m.

The plans show a range of test tracks that Dyson claims total more than 10 miles. These routes include a dynamic handling track, a large asphalt area to evaluate vehicle stability control systems, an off-road route, a fast-road route designed to replicate motorway driving, test slopes and a handling circuit.

Dyson has restored two of Hullavington’s 1938 hangars to accommodate the 500 staff who work there, and the site is continuing to grow. 

Rowan said: “Our growing automotive team is working from Dyson’s state-of-the-art hangars at Hullavington. It will quickly become a world-class testing campus where we hope to invest £200m, creating more high-skilled jobs for Britain. We are now firmly focused on the next stage of our automotive project, strengthening our credentials as a global research and development organisation.”

The Dyson electric car engineering project is being led by former Aston Martin man Ian Minards. The firm recently applied to extend its ‘Digital Motor’ trademark to automotive use – a sign that it plans to use its strength in the domestic products business to gain credibility for its first car.

Click onto page two for our interview with Sir James Dyson…

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