Dyson to make electric cars from 2020

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Heathcliff O’Malley

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Sir James Dyson accused the mainstream car industry of polluting the world with diesel emissions

Dyson, the engineering company best known for its vacuum cleaners and fans, plans to make an electric car.

Customers will have to wait until after 2020 when the firm plans to start selling the battery-powered car.

Dyson says it has 400 staff developing the car at its headquarters in Malmesbury in Wiltshire, with a factory site yet to be chosen.

Company founder Sir James Dyson said his firm would spend £2bn on the project.

He declined to give further details of the project.

“Competition for new technology in the automotive industry is fierce and we must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our vehicle confidential,” Sir James told staff in an email.

Details that are undecided or secret include the firm’s expected annual production numbers, how much the car will cost, its top speed and its range.

However, Sir James explained that half of the initial £2bn investment would be spent on developing the car, with the remainder on making the battery.

Further development work will take place at a former RAF base at Hullavington in Wiltshire, with staff moving in next February.

Sir James also said that his firm’s car would look “radical and different”.

Nor will it be cheap as it will be aimed at the “tech end” of the market rather than mass market.

The motor is designed and ready to go, he said, but the firm is still designing the car.

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Dyson hopes to challenge other electric car manufacturers such as Tesla

Dyson’s decision means it is joining the rush within the global car industry to develop and make electric cars.

Some manufacturers such as Nissan, Tesla, Renault, BMW and Hyundai already manufacture them.

Others such as VW, Volvo, Mercedes, Honda and Jaguar Land Rover have announced plans to sell electric or hybrid versions of their existing petrol and diesel engine ranges.

VW, for instance, plans to spend 20bn euros (£17.5bn) by 2030 to develop its battery powered vehicles.

Sir James told his staff in an email that he had been interested since 1990 in developing filtration technology to stop vehicle diesel emissions polluting the environment.

But as the motor industry had shown no interest in adopting this idea, he would instead join the fast-growing trend to make electric vehicles.

“Governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants,” said Sir James.

“Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations.

“As a result, developed and developing cities are full of smog-belching cars, lorries and buses,” he added.

Analysis: Theo Leggett, BBC business correspondent

The electric car market is growing rapidly, but it is also about to become a lot more crowded.

Within the next few years, many new models are due to come on to the market, including Jaguar’s Ipace, Porsche’s Mission E, Volkswagen’s I.D. family and Mercedes’ EQ range.

Tesla also has big plans for its recently-launched Model 3.

They will be joining established models such as the Nissan Leaf, the BMW i3, the Renault Zoe and the Tesla Model S.

Dyson clearly sees an opportunity here.

As new designs become available, and prices come down, more consumers will be willing to try electric vehicles.

Policymakers, concerned about air pollution, want them to do just that.

The big question is whether Dyson can muscle in on territory which the major manufacturers are already trying to make their own.

And let’s not forget Silicon Valley giant Google’s designs on the electric/self driving market.

Tesla was able to build a new car brand from scratch, but only by producing a design which effectively moved the goalposts and changed people’s expectations of what an electric car could provide.

If Dyson wants to play with the big boys, it may have to pull off a similar trick.

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