Inventor James Dyson

Dyson investing £2bn to build electric vehicles for 2020 launch

Image credit: The Royal Society

Bagless vacuum-cleaner manufacturer Dyson will invest £2bn in developing an electric vehicle with an anticipated release date of 2020.

Half of that investment will go directly towards the vehicle’s creation, while the remaining £1bn will fund battery technology that could be adapted for a variety of uses.

Dyson is primarily known for its expertise building household items like vacuum cleaners, hairdryers and fans, so entering the electric car market may seem like an unusual decision on first glance.

But the company’s expertise in solid-state battery technology and electric motors - both key elements of electric vehicles - gives it a head start in the sector.

The company was backing solid-state rather than the lithium ion technology used in existing electric vehicles because it was safer, the batteries would not overheat, were quicker to charge and potentially more powerful.

“I wanted you to hear it directly from me: Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020,” founder Sir James Dyson said in an email circulated to employees.

“We’ve started building an exceptional team that combines top Dyson engineers with talented individuals from the automotive industry. The team is already over 400 strong and we are recruiting aggressively. I’m committed to investing £2bn on this endeavour.”

He said the project would “grow quickly” but did not release any further information, saying competition for new tech in the auto industry was “fierce”.

Dyson gave no details of the concept for the vehicle, beyond saying it would not be like anything else already on the market.

“We must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our vehicle confidential.”

The technology tycoon said the idea had been brewing for decades amid concerns about global air pollution and vehicle emissions.

Dyson said a 400-strong team of engineers had already spent two and a half years working on the hitherto secret car project in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. However, the car itself still has to be designed and the choice of battery finalised.

He also pointed to prototype devices developed by the company back in 1993 that could be fitted to a vehicle’s exhaust system to trap harmful particulates from exhaust.

Dyson scrapped the project as “nobody at the time was interested”.

He said that while governments have adopted so-called clean diesel engines, major auto manufacturers had since “duped” clean-air regulations, leaving cities full of “smog-belching cars, lorries and buses”.

Sir James added: “Some years ago, observing that automotive firms were not changing their spots, I committed the company to develop new battery technologies.

“I believed that electrically-powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating.

“At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product.

“Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source.”

In March Dyson announced plans for a new multimillion-pound research and development centre to be built in the UK. 

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