This week, it was learned Tesla probably knew about Dyson’s electric vehicle plans two years before its September announcement amidst a long winding series of court battles and non-compete mania.
According to 2015 court documents published last Monday, a senior engineer named Pierre Pellerey revealed Dyson’s plans to Tesla after Tesla offered him a job, triggering a court case to enforce a non-compete clause post-employment. While awaiting visa approval to work for Tesla in the U.S., Dyson’s “Project E” became known, placing Pellerey under pressure to choose between two outcomes – securing future prospects at Dyson versus accepting Tesla’s job offer.
During this time, Tesla moved the job opportunity to Europe, prompting Pellerey to inform Dyson of his plans to leave. With that, a non-compete clause of 12 months was enforced by Dyson’s lawyers, opening up the groundwork for an injunction which Dyson won. Given the nature of the proceedings, many have speculated Tesla learned of Dyson’s plans at that point.
At last, Dyson announced its plans to produce an electric car last September.
According to Dyson, two years of secretive research has led to $1.34 billion dollars in investment funding into production plus the same amount to produce solid-state batteries, an alternative to lithium batteries, a concept popularized by Toyota. The groundwork for electric vehicle production has steadily taken place, with prior investments in a battery startup (Sakti3) for $90 million, executive-level hires from competitors Aston Martin and Tesla, and acceptance of government funds for research purposes.
In the highly competitive race for electric vehicle market share, other brands have also been caught in legal and intellectual property battles. More recently, Waymo and Uber have been fighting regarding intellectual property with claims Uber stole confidential information. In the manufacturing space, nearly all automakers are making investments to bolster resources and expertise on everything from manufacturing, acquisition of key technology and materials suppliers, and aggressive recruitment drives of high-level competitor personnel.