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To build a better battery, Dyson will spend $1.4 billion, enlist 3,000 engineers

Lithium ion battery
Image used with permission by copyright holder
When James Dyson wants to invent something, he doesn’t let obstacles like time and money get in his way. And with its “fail faster” mentality, Dyson‘s team doesn’t hesitate to go through thousands of prototypes before finalizing an invention.

Among the 100 new products the company founder wants to invent by 2020, the greatest investment in people and money is to improve rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, as reported by Forbes.

And Dyson is not planning incremental improvements. His opinion is that current Li-ion batteries don’t last long enough and aren’t safe enough — the latter as evidenced by their propensity to spontaneously catch on fire, which is rare but does happen. Dyson believes the answer lies in using ceramics to create solid-state lithium-ion batteries.

Dyson says he intended to spend $1.4 billion in research and development and in building a battery factory over the next five years. Last year Dyson bought Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Sakti3, which focuses on creating advanced solid-state batteries, for $90 million. The global lithium-ion battery market accounts for $40 billion in annual sales, according to research firm Lux as cited by Forbes.

Dyson’s company (which is an accurate description since he has 100-percent ownership) currently employs 3,000 engineers worldwide. He intends to hire another 3,000 by 2020. Their average age is 26.

The engineers, who are considered inventors, are valued for their youth. “The enthusiasm and lack of fear is important,” Dyson says. “Not taking notice of experts and plowing on because you believe in something is important. It’s much easier to do when you’re young.”

Dyson and his company spent five years and rejected 5,127 prototypes before coming up with the final version of its bagless vacuum cleaner. The Supersonic hair dryer took four years and 600 prototypes. The company’s 360 Eye robot invention process took 17 years and more than 1,000 prototypes. That pattern of persistence and focus is what Dyson is bringing to developing the world’s best lithium-ion batteries.

In Dyson’s own words, “Batteries are quite exciting and sexy things.”

Bruce Brown
Digital Trends Contributing Editor Bruce Brown is a member of the Smart Homes and Commerce teams. Bruce uses smart devices…
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