Does the Electric Vehicle Market Need Another Player? Dyson Says Yes

by | Oct 2, 2017

The electric vehicles market is getting more crowded now that Dyson Ltd. said it too would hit the road with its concept by 2020. It is joining the likes of Toyota, Chevrolet and Volkswagen, with the vacuum maker saying that it would invest more than $2.5 billion in both the cars and the batteries to power them.

When it comes to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, the electricity sector gets much of the attention, considering that it is responsible for 29% of those releases. But the transportation sector makes up 27% of them. If that is going to change, the electric car will have to make significant inroads. Is that possible?

James Dyson is the British billionaire giving the electric vehicle a go. He says that his vehicle will be “radically different” from others on the market — especially Tesla’s version, as reported by Bloomberg. “There’s no point doing something that looks like everyone else’s,” the news story reports him as saying. “It is not a sports car and not a very cheap car.”

The key difference is that Dyson will use a “solid-state” battery while most of the others use a “lithium-ion” battery. Those are smaller and easier to charge, he told Bloomberg. He added that electric cars would become his company’s biggest source of revenues and exceed those of its vacuums, hand blowers and air purifiers.

In October 2015, Dyson bought Sakti3 for $90 million. That company makes solid-state batteries.

There were 2 million electric cars on the road in 2016 — double that from the year before, and Dyson says that the Far East has the most potential. China has been the biggest market, in fact, at 40% of all sales. It also has 2 million electric bikes. Norway, meantime, was a third of the EV market in 2016.

“Electric Cars still represent only 0.2% of all cars in the world,” Kirill Klip added in a blog. “Worldwide sales of electric cars have reached 1.1% of total auto sales in 2016. In order to limit temperature increase below 2º C the number of electric cars needs to reach 600 million by 2040.”

To be sure, obstacles abound. Fitch Ratings calculates that at a 32.5% compound annual growth rate, it would be nearly 20 years before electric vehicles comprised 25% of the auto market. So, it does expect oil to be around for a while.

Tesla, though, is a powerful catalyst driving electric cars. And the efficiencies of electric cars will improve — or the ability to input a unit of energy and to realize more output. In fact, traditional cars running on an internal combustion engine have a 30% efficiency rate. The rest is lost to heat, sound and energy.

“Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source,” Dyson said in an email, as reported by Forbes.

The genesis of the modern electric car can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s time period. That’s when the California Air Resources Board set a zero-emissions standard to wean the state from petroleum. There, mobile sources still account for half of all emissions that contribute to ozone and particulate matter — and nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gases, the agency says.

About 9 other states have similar initiatives — not just to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road but also to increase the miles per gallon that traditional cars can travel. Because car makers don’t find it efficient to make different types of cars for different states, jurisdictions across the country are also benefiting from California’s mandate.

Meantime, the batteries that are so integral to the electric vehicle are improving. Today’s lithium-ion batteries are smaller and more energy dense, and be traced back to the development of laptop computing. Recharging can be done from home and the batteries have a relatively long life, enabling many of today’s electric vehicles to travel at least 90 miles per charge. That’s more than enough for most daily commuters.

But those batteries may be nearing their full potential. Enter solid state batteries that are smaller and lighter weight. There is still a lot of research to be done although Toyota has been hard at work and now, Dyson is as well.

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