Vacuum company Dyson plans electric car by 2020

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James Dyson

James Dyson

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British household appliance firm Dyson’s claim to fame may be a bagless vacuum cleaner, but in the not too distant future we may also associate the company with cars.

In an email sent to Dyson employees on Tuesday, founder and chief engineer James Dyson confirmed plans for an electric car to be launched by 2020—something he’s been hinting at since as early as 2008.

In his email, Dyson said work had already begun on the car and that a team of 400 had been assembled. He also said the company was looking to recruit many more staff for the project and had committed at least $2.7 billion.

Around half that figure will be spent on developing the car and the remaining amount on batteries. Dyson has already been spending big on battery technology. In 2015, the company bought American solid state battery startup Sakti3 for $90 million.

Dyson’s concept drawing for a cyclonic filter system for exhaust emissions

Dyson’s concept drawing for a cyclonic filter system for exhaust emissions

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Dyson said he won’t be as forthcoming with information on the project as some other firms in the electric car space, due to what he sees as “fierce” competition in the auto industry regarding new technology. Recall, Dyson will not only be going up against Tesla but pretty much all of the established automakers as well. Then you have a handful of additional electric car startups, such as Fisker, Lucid and Nio, also racing to bring electric cars to the market.

Nevertheless, he was forthcoming in revealing one of his main motivations behind the project. He explains that he’s been concerned about the harmful health effects of emissions, particularly those of diesel engines, since the late 1980s. As early as 1990 he assembled a team to look at ways of developing a cyclonic filtering system that could be fitted on a vehicle’s exhaust system to trap particulates.

Although some impressive prototypes were developed, Dyson said automakers and society in general weren’t concerned enough at the time. You can see a demonstration of one of the prototypes made in 1993 on an episode of "Blue Peter." Interest in his cyclonic filtering system faded even more once automakers started rolling out so-called clean diesel technology. We all know how that ended.

Now Dyson sees an opportunity to skip the filtering of exhausts and eliminate emissions altogether by launching an electric car.

 
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