Product, Service & Design Innovation
GM, Dyson Rev Up Efforts to Electrify the Future of Mobility

Following major electric vehicle announcements from Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and Volkswagen last month, General Motors Co. (GM) and, unexpectedly, Dyson have joined the ever-expanding group of automakers and companies dedicated to electrifying the future of mobility.

GM, the US’s largest car manufacturer, has announced plans to offer 20 all-electric vehicles by 2023. The lineup will include both battery-powered and fuel cell options, with two new EVs ready to roll out over the next 18 months. At its technical center, GM introduced three concept cars, two crossovers for the Buick and Cadillac brands and a potential future model of the Chevrolet Bolt.

“GM believes the future is all electric, a world free of automotive emissions,” said Mark Reuss, EVP of Global Product Development. “It’s real.”

However, despite tightening regulations on emissions across the globe, the response to the company’s first battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt has been sluggish. Since its launch, the GM has sold fewer than 12,000 units of the model, the majority of which were sold in California. The unfolding rat race around EVs could, however, give the automaker a major boost.

As batteries become lighter and cheaper, the cost of producing EVs is becoming more affordable for both companies and consumers. According to GM CEO Mary Barra, the lithium-ion batteries used by GM currently cost around $145 per kilowatt hour to produce and the company has set its sights on achieving less than $100. Access to EV infrastructure, such as charging stations, remains, however, a challenge.

GM’s latest move will be essential for remaining competitive in the Chinese market, where automakers will be held to a new cap-and-trade policy beginning in 2019. The policy will require automakers to obtain a new-energy vehicle score of 10 percent by 2019, rising to 12 percent in 2020. To meet this deadline, the auto giant plans to roll out 10 new-energy vehicles, a mix of plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, in China by 2020.

Meanwhile, British technology company Dyson is venturing into new territory. Known for its innovative takes on traditional household appliances, which include vacuums, bladeless fans and hair dryers, the company has plans to expand into the electric car market by 2020.

Dyson brought on four hundred engineers with automotive experience in 2015 to begin work on the £2.5 billion project. While many of the design details are being kept under wraps, what is known so far is that the team has developed the vehicle’s electric motor, as well as two different batteries, which the company claims are already more efficient than those currently available on the market. And while no prototypes have emerged as of yet, Dyson Founder and Director of Research and Development, Sir James Dyson has said that the cars will be equipped with the brand’s signature air purifying technology to protect drivers from diesel particulate pollution.

The car is poised to compete with upmarket vehicles such as Tesla’s Model 3 and Model S — both in terms of innovation and price tag. While he hasn’t revealed a specific price range, Dyson admitted that “the better figure is how much of a deposit they would be prepared to put down.”

Successfully designing and manufacturing a vehicle is a complicated process — even for longstanding industry giants — leaving many skeptical of Dyson’s ambitious plans. However, the company has a few tricks up its sleeves. R&D is Dyson’s specialty, which has allowed it to essentially establish itself as the Tesla of the appliance market. Efficient air flow is a critical consideration for many of Dyson’s designs and the company’s extensive experience with aerodynamics — as well as electric motors — could give it a leg up on the competition.

Dyson has already poured a significant amount of investment into its future car’s battery supply as well, purchasing solid-state battery company Sakti3 in 2015. Sakti3’s technology, though still in the development stage, is expected to be lighter and more energy efficient than existing lithium-ion batteries.

It’s unlikely Dyson will rake in a fortune through the venture — at least not at first — but it would certainly give a boost to the company’s already established reputation as an envelope-pusher.


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