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Dyson, the company that makes fancy vacuums, is building an electric car

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Household appliance manufacturer Dyson is taking a leap into building a different kind of appliance: An electric vehicle.

In an email to staff, Dyson founder James Dyson wrote that the company has been working on building a battery-powered electric vehicle with a team of 400 people. The company, best known for its vacuum cleaners, plans to launch their EV to the public by 2020.

In his email, Dyson wrote that the company will be investing two billion euro ($2.35 billion) into developing these cars. The company expects to manufacture the majority of the car in-house with the exception of components like tires for which Dyson will turn to traditional suppliers.

Dyson’s motivation, he wrote, was to help solve the current environmental crisis plaguing the earth — something he accuses traditional automakers of having done little to alleviate.

“In the period since, governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants,” Dyson wrote. “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. It is a problem that others are ignoring.”

Building a battery-powered EV is not an easy task. Just look at Tesla, which posted a record quarterly loss of $336 million at the end of August 2017. The company did beat revenue expectations, however, with $2.79 billion in sales. That was before the Elon-Musk-helmed company began producing its mass-market vehicle the Model 3.

Add to the costliness of manufacturing an EV, Dyson will have to compete with Tesla for its cult-like following.

It’s unclear how many cars Dyson plans to produce by 2020 or how they will be priced. But, if you subscribe to Musk’s vision, then the only way to actually impact environmental issues is to encourage or enable mass consumption of alternatively fueled cars.

Dyson’s move doesn’t come as a total surprise. Two high-profile hires from Aston Martin fueled speculation that the British company might be exploring manufacturing its own electric cars. In fact, former Tesla vice president of global communications Ricardo Reyes is leading Dyson’s global communications.

Here’s the full email:

In 1988 I read a paper by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, linking the exhaust from diesel engines to premature death in laboratory mice and rats. In March 1990 a team at Dyson began work on a cyclonic filter that could be fitted on a vehicle’s exhaust system to trap particulates.

Sketches Dyson included in his email.

By 1993 we had developed several working prototypes and showed an early iteration to British television programme Blue Peter. The team went on to develop a much more sophisticated technology.

To our chagrin, nobody at the time was interested in employing our diesel exhaust capture system and westopped the project. The industry said that ‘disposing’ of the collected soot was too much of a problem! Better to breathe it in?

In the period since, governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants. 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. It is a problem that others are ignoring.

Throughout, it has remained my ambition to find a solution to the global problem of air pollution. 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. The latest digital motors and energy storage systems power the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer and cord-free vacuum line. We’ve relentlessly innovated in fluid dynamics and HVAC systems to build our fans, heaters and purifiers.

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. So I wanted you to hear it directly from me: Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020.

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.

The project will grow quickly from here but at this stage we will not release any information. 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

In London, nearly 9,500 people die early each year due to long-term exposure to air pollution according to a study carried out by researchers at King’s College London. The World Health Organisation reports “in 2012 around 7 million people died – one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure”. It is our obligation to offer a solution to the world’s largest single environmental risk. I look forward to showing you all what I hope will be something quite unique and better, in due course!

James


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