This stillborn Dyson is the world’s most expensive car

Why the cancellation of Dyson’s electric car really sucks

Dyson N526

If you get a flutter of excitement at first glance of this intriguing new car as we did, try not to be too disappointed when you learn, even though it came close to setting a new standard in the electric car performance, it will never be offered as a production model.

When Dyson’s electric vehicle project was announced in early 2018 it looked as if a compelling Tesla rival might be entering the zero-emissions ring, but the ambitious plans to produce up to three models were shelved late in 2019 when the company’s founder Sir James Dyson declared it commercially unviable.

"Though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable," Dyson told his staff in 2019. 

"We have been through a serious process to find a buyer for the project which has, unfortunately, been unsuccessful so far."

Now though, the company has revealed the prototype that came so close to advancing the electric vehicle cause - along with its eye-watering price.

Dyson N526

The price of progress

In an exclusive chat with company boss and founder Dyson, the UK’s Sunday Times got the lowdown on the project, along with the first look at the prototype that would have joined the growing electric SUV movement.

Most astonishingly, though, the British inventor revealed that funding the project to the point of producing a single prototype cost a staggering £500m (about A$939m).

You could argue plenty of other new car development costs exceed Dyson’s, but the key difference is that a production version will never result.

Dyson factory
Dyson's stillborn Singapore factory

As soon as a new car’s design is signed off and the production version starts rolling off the production line and into showrooms, even in extremely exclusive and low-volume applications such as Bugatti and Koenigsegg, the development investment starts to return.

But in the case of Dyson’s stillborn, it won’t ever pay a penny back, which means this one-off driving prototype is the world’s most expensive car.

What died with the Dyson?

And that’s disappointing because Dyson detailed some of the car’s vital statistics and they rival if not exceed the best of the best in today’s EV car park.

Codenamed the N526, Dyson’s automotive foray used the lithium-ion battery technology that already resides at the core of the company’s cordless products, albeit on a much larger scale, bringing a range of up to 600 miles - just shy of the milestone 1000km mark.

That smashes by about double the total claimed kilometres per charge of all its would-be rivals including the Tesla Model X, Jaguar’s I Pace and the Mercedes EQC.

And Dyson says it would deliver that performance in the real world, at realistic speeds, under all conditions.

Dyson headquarters

The secret to its Tesla-obliterating range lies in Dyson’s proprietary solid-state technology similar to the breakthrough recently announced by Samsung. 

Performance figures were similarly aggressive, with the zero to 100km/h dash taking just 4.8 seconds and a top speed of 200km/h thanks to an electric motor output of about 400kW and 650Nm.

MORE Could Tesla's new battery tech break the ICE/EV divide for good?

Twin motors presumably offered all-wheel-drive capability and allowed enough cabin space to seat up to seven people, despite its low roofline and a windscreen rake steeper than any Ferrari, said Dyson.

An image of the N526’s interior reveals a cabin that’s somewhere between 1960s Citroen interior and USS Enterprise bridge, offering a holographic head-up display and ultra-minimalist styling.

Dyson N526
Image credit: The Sunday Times

It even drives, according to its creator, and the development vehicle cut a few laps of a specially-screened part of the company’s HQ with Dyson at the wheel.

Sadly, Dyson crunched the numbers and established that each production version would need to haul in $282,000 just to break even, and even Britain’s richest man couldn’t justify subsidising his car to green-light it for production.

While some are calling Dyson's billion-dollar car venture a failure, much of the research and development will be put to good use - and not just in the world’s most advanced hair straighteners or a vacuum cleaner with more suck.

The UK’s most well-heeled man is open to sharing the technology and research which could enable the breakthroughs hidden underneath an incredibly expensive development car to find their way onto our roads yet… for a price.


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