Sir James Dyson - Wealthiest man in the UK but failed at EV pivot.

in #richlist2 months ago


It's that time of year again, where we all get to marvel at the insane figures of wealth from businessmen in the UK. A few ups and downs for sure, but the usual suspects occupy the top 10.

They are :

1Sir James Dyson and family£16.2bn
2Sri and Gopi Hinduja and family£16bn
3David and Simon Reuben£16bn
4Sir Leonard Blavatnik£15.8bn
5Sir Jim Ratcliffe£12.2bn
6Kirsten and Jorn Rausing£12.1bn
7Alisher Usmanov£11.7bn
8Guy, George and Galen Jr Weston and family£10.5bn
9Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and Michel de Carvalho£10.3bn
10The Duke of Westminster and the Grosvenor family£10.3bn

There is an interesting story this year about the person who made the top of the list this year and that is Sir James Dyson. Apparently he put a lot of money (crucially his own) into trying to develop a six seater electric car with 600 miles of range but pulled the plug on the whole operation when it became clear that it would be priced at about 150,000 Pounds and there was little room to lower the costs.

A couple things I would say to this.

  1. Sir James Dyson is an honest businessman and not a government subsidy vampire, unlike ohh I don't know - Elon Musk perhaps?
  2. This shows something. There are things that are technologically possible but which do not make economic sense. Supersonic passenger travel is one example, electric cars are another.

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that the future is electric, and that EV's will become a mainstay in the coming decade. I also believe EVs will eventually become viable with some serious technological advancement in batteries notwithstanding.

There are a long list of things that are technologically feasible but don't make economic sense because they involve high costs that can't be reduced no matter what you try. We can try brute force them and cover up their weaknesses in beautifully sculpted shells we like to call "ev is the future" but the underlying feature is the bottleneck of current physics.

Supersonic passenger transport is an example of this, and flying cars the natural evolution.

Electrical vehicles can work if you only want to use them within a metropolitan area (where the cost of the required infrastructure is also manageable). That doesn't happen if you want something with a range of more than 100 miles. Anything beyond that is very difficult for reasons to do with physics. Dyson could have had a vehicle that would make a decent return with a reasonable price but he wanted a general purpose car that could also be used for longer journeys.

The way forward is actually to go back to the old system of railways plus vehicles for short range distribution from railheads.

We will need some technological breakthrough or even some cases, a theoretical scientific one. Electric vehicles will become the norm, particularly in metropolitan areas but they will not replace fossil fuel vehicles for medium and long distance travel. The big holdup will be the capital cost of building the infrastructure. Bar getting government subsidies, this is just not likely viable for someone like Dyson.

I don't see any way to have heavier than air transport that doesn't use fossil fuels at all and I don't see supersonic passenger transport that does use fossil fuels ever getting beyond the niche product range. The fact is, the average speed of air travel now is less than it was in the 60s, and that is a sound reflection of economic reality.