Dyson Challenges Tesla With $1.4 Billion Battery Tech Investment

  • Company's efforts gets 16-million-pound boost from U.K. budget
  • Follows 2015 acquisition of U.S. battery-maker Satki3

Dyson, the U.K. producer of innovative vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, will spend 1 billion pounds ($1.44 billion) on battery development over the next five years as it increases its efforts to expand into new sectors.

Dyson company founder and chairman James Dyson with the 'Dyson 360 Eye', robot vacuum cleaner in Tokyo.
Dyson company founder and chairman James Dyson with the 'Dyson 360 Eye', robot vacuum cleaner in Tokyo.
Photographer: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

It follows a 2015 acquisition of Satki3, a U.S. maker of solid-state lithium-ion batteries, for $90 million. Dyson Ltd. had previously invested $15 million in the Michigan firm, which said it has found a way to produce batteries with twice the energy storage potential of standard lithium-ion models, at a half to a third of the cost.

QuickTake Building a Better Battery

Dyson’s battery efforts also received a lift from the U.K.’s 2016 budget, announced last week. As part of the package, the British government awarded Dyson a 16-million-pound grant to undertake research on longer-lasting batteries. The grant came from a regional development fund.

Batteries are a key component in Dyson’s cordless vacuum cleaners, a category that grew 66 percent globally in 2015 and in which Dyson currently holds about a 25 percent share of the market, the company said in an e-mailed statement.

While the immediate application for new batteries would probably be in Dyson’s existing cordless products, they have potential uses in everything from electric cars to tablet computers. In moving into the battery field, Dyson is taking on the likes of Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors, which is also developing advanced cells to power vehicles and home appliances.

Strong sales

Dyson’s announcement of its major investment into batteries came as the company reported strong sales and profit growth for 2015, with revenues of 1.7 billion pounds, a 26 percent increase on the prior year. Profits were up 19 percent to 448 million pounds.

In addition to cordless cleaning products, the company’s sale of air purifiers and humidifiers was a strong driver of growth, with sales increasing 35 percent globally, driven by strong demand in Asia, the company said.

The company said it expected to spend 100 million pounds over the next three years to acquire external technologies. This is in addition to the 5 million pounds a week it plans to spend on internal research and development.

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