Allstate Journal

Dyson acquires battery firm, plans to build major factory

Vacuum cleaner manufacturer Dyson plans to build a major battery factory after acquiring a Michigan-based start-up, the company’s founder and chief engineer said. Dyson confirmed that it has acquired Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Sakti3 and plans to use the startup’s solid-state lithium-ion technology to improve the battery life on its cordless vacuums, deliver new products and build a battery production plant.

The acquisition is also expected to fuel speculation that Dyson may dabble in the market for electric vehicles, possibly entering the fray as a supplier of electric-drivetrain technology. James Dyson, founder and chief engineer of the United Kingdom-based manufacturing and technology giant, said in an interview that the company’s battery production facility would require several hundred million to a billion dollars of investment. Dyson said the U.S. is an option — including Sakti3′s home state.

“I think there are lots of places we could do it, so we are keeping a very open mind about it at the moment,” he said. Entering the realm of advanced battery production for electric vehicles would put the U.K. company in direct competition with the likes of Silicon Valley’s Tesla Motors, Panasonic and LG Chem. Tesla is currently building a massive battery factory in Reno, Nev.

The $90 million acquisition — first reported by business-news site Quartz — reflects a win for clean-tech investors in Sakti3, including General Motors and Khosla Ventures. Dyson itself had already invested $15 million in Sakti3. The University of Michigan spinoff company’s founder and CEO, former engineering professor Ann Marie Sastry, will lead development of her technology as an executive for Dyson.