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Dyson Is Developing and Electric Car and Wants It on the Streets by 2020

Wired Business Conference in Partnership with MDC PartnersWired Business Conference in Partnership with MDC Partners
James Dyson.Larry Busacca — WireImage

From vacuum cleaners to hairdryers to — electric cars.

British engineering and design guru James Dyson confirmed Tuesday rumors that have been circulating for months, announcing that his company is developing a battery electric vehicle and wants to bring it to market within three years.

“Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020,” the company’s founder said in an e-mail 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.”

Speculation about an electric vehicle project has been rife since the company bought a disused military facility in England’s West Country big enough to accommodate a testing circuit.

Dyson said he was “committed to investing 2 billion pounds ($2.7 billion at current exchange rates) on this endeavor.”

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Dyson promised the project “will grow quickly from here” but said it wouldn’t release any further information, due to competition concerns. “We must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our vehicle confidential.”

The venture represents a huge departure for a company that has so far kept itself to relatively small-scale appliances. It’s also by some way the biggest independent British venture into car production in decades, given that all of the country’s famous brands such as Rolls-Royce and Mini (BMW), Bentley (Volkswagen) and Jaguar (Tata Motors) are foreign-owned.

Dyson said he was driven by the desire to solve a growing crisis with air pollution from “smog-belching cars, lorries (trucks) and buses.” He noted that he had first tried to solve the problem nearly 20 years ago by inventing filters to capture soot particles in car exhausts but had not found a market.”

“In the period since, governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants,” he said. “Major auto manufacturers have circumvented and duped clean air regulations.”

Read: How James Dyson Created a $3 Billion Vacuum Empire

In that respect, the project offers the chance of sweet revenge on a German manufacturing lobby that he says has bent the rules of the EU’s single market to suit itself and shut out competitors like him. The announcement comes at a time when Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW are all in the awkward position of having invested heavily in diesel, a technology that has been discredited by Volkswagen’s emissions scandal.