Dyson Commits $1.4 Billion for Battery Development by David Z. Morris @FortuneMagazine August 27, 2016, 3:41 PM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Linkedin Share icons As electric-car maker Tesla beefs up its batteries and spins up a giant battery factory, a shadowy horse is moving up from behind. British vacuum magnate James Dyson tells Forbes that he will spend $1.4 billion over the next five years to build a battery factory and push battery technology forward, theoretically eclipsing Tesla’s existing tech. The commitment is a risky bet for Dyson and his namesake company, which he owns in full. To get a sense of why, consider Dyson’s most notable major investment in batteries so far: The acquisition last year of solid-state battery startup Sakti3. That company’s batteries have still only been demonstrated in the lab, and some have even questioned whether its promises will ever be fulfilled. Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter. The immediate obstacle is cost. Experts speaking to Forbes estimate that even a modest vacuum cleaner battery produced using solid-state technology would currently cost $2,000. At the time of the Sakti3 acquisition, Dyson said his company would invest up to $1 billion on a factory to bring production of solid-state batteries to scale and, at least theoretically, push the cost down. If commercialization and cost-cutting efforts are successful within Dyson’s five year window, it could present a threat to Tesla, because it would open the possibility of scaling solid-state technology up to car-battery size. Sakti3 has previously claimed its technology could store energy at nearly twice the density of the lithium-ion formulation used in Tesla’s batteries. That formulation is the bedrock of Tesla’s massive investment in its Nevada Gigafactory, which couldn’t be easily retooled to produce a different kind of battery. Having a competing, much more effective battery technology available, while Tesla was still locked into li-on, could open the door for other automakers to offer electric vehicles with a big range advantage. For more on battery development, watch our video. Of course, there’s a long chain of contingency between a vacuum maker investing in experimental battery tech, and putting a better battery in a production vehicle. For one, Dyson is clearly focused on small rechargeable electronics. Then there’s the very real possibility that solid-state won’t pan out at all—which is why Tesla has stuck with the tried and true lithium-ion, for all its limitations. And that’s probably the strongest warning sign about the Dyson investment. When Elon Musk has already decided pushing batteries further is too much of a longshot—Elon Musk, who calmly argues for the sensibility of colonizing Mars—it might be wise to tap the brakes.