Dyson, the technology company best known for its vacuum cleaners, is to launch an electric car by 2020, company founder James Dyson has disclosed, revealing that the company has had some 400 engineers working on the project since 2015.
The disclosure was formally made today following a rising tide of speculation, but comes after broad plans were accidentally outed in a government National Infrastructure Delivery Plan published last year.
"The government is funding Dyson to develop a new battery electric vehicle at their headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire. This will secure £174m of investment in the area, creating over 500 jobs, mostly in engineering," claimed the document, published in March 2016.
In addition to the investment in in-house development, the company also bought Michigan-based battery startup Sakti3 for $90m in 2015.
In an interview with The Guardian today following a company-wide announcement, Dyson admitted the plans and said that the vehicle wouldn't be a sports car, along the lines of Elon Musk's Tesla electric cars, but would be "radically different". Consumers, though, will have to "wait and see" what the car looks and drives like, he added.
"We don't have an existing chassis … We're starting from scratch. What we're doing is quite radical," he said.
However, like Tesla, he added that the car would still be expensive.
The revelation of Dyson's electric car development plans come after the company last year admitted that it was investing £1bn in research into battery technology. Development of a vehicle prototype will cost another £1bn, while "associated costs" will add another £500m to the bill.
The car is being developed at the company's research campus in Wiltshire, with a new facility being built on a former second world war airfield at Hullavington, near to Dyson's headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, to house the development as it expands towards testing and full production.
However, it's not clear where the vehicle will be built. The company produces much of its products in factories in Malaysia to take advantage of lower labour costs and shorter supply chains for parts, but it may prefer to build its first vehicles closer to home.
That said, when the company acquired Sakti3 in 2015, Dyson suggested that the US was under consideration as a manufacturing location for batteries based on Sakti3's technology.
Dyson told staff in a company-wide memo that while he was concerned about the impact of diesel particulate pollution and had designed a filter that could reduce the level of particulates expelled by diesel engines, he felt that electric was a better way forward - but that his electric cars would be fitted with filters to prevent conventional cars' exhausts from polluting his electric cars' interiors.
Dyson struck a more cautious note on autonomous vehicles, though, suggesting that fully self-driving cars were still "some way off".
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