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Dyson Is the Latest Unlikely Company to Announce an Electric Vehicle

By: · September 28, 2017

Sir James Dyson

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You might think of Apple or Google as unlikely automakers—but Dyson, the company that’s best known for its vacuums?

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Yes, seriously, Dyson. The U.K. company announced it will launch a battery-electric vehicle by 2020, with first deliveries in early 2021. But the company hasn’t yet decided where to build it or how it will be sold, and it has only started to develop the model. According to company founder Sir James Dyson, the company is prepared to spend $2.7 billion on the project, with that spending to be split down the middle between battery technology and the vehicle itself.

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The company has already brought in 400 additional employees for the EV project and taken over an old World War II airfield in Wiltshire, England. And, as Dyson put it, they are continuing to recruit aggressively.

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In an email sent out to the entire company, Dyson said his concerns about vehicle emissions and public health go back to the late 1980s, with a U.S. paper linking diesel-engine exhaust to premature death in laboratory mice and rats. That led to the development of a cyclonic particulate filter that could be fitted to diesel trucks—a project that was poorly received by commercial-truck manufacturers.

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“At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product,” explained Dyson, pointing to the company’s work not just with vacuums but with hair dryers, fans, heaters, and air purifiers and the related airflow and fluid-dynamics work. “Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source.

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“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,” said Dyson. He noted that the car won’t be based on an existing chassis—unlike Tesla’s first model, the Roadster, which was fundamentally a Lotus Elise converted to electric power.

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Splitting Its Battery Bets

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The company did reveal a few more details to us. Dyson isn’t putting all of its eggs in the basket of one battery supplier or technology for this project. The total battery investment goes toward two rival technologies, according to a company spokesperson, one of which is solid-state battery technology currently being developed by Sakti3.

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That effort, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a stone’s throw from Car and Driver’s editorial offices, has had a partnership with Dyson since 2015 and claims double the energy density, by volume, compared with conventional lithium-ion automotive cells, while weighing less. Sakti3’s efforts focus on the aspect that’s a deal breaker for solid-state tech to date: manufacturing ease.

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Dyson vehicle development center

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Early vehicle development has likely been underway in some form for a couple of years; early last year, documents were leaked when Dyson sought public funding for its automotive expansion.

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Company founder Dyson didn’t have any further details to share about how the vehicle might be positioned for sales or marketing. He told the U.K. publication Auto Express that it won’t be a sports car or a very cheap car, but it will stand out with respect to technology and styling. “We’re trying to be radical,” he said.

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James Dyson just announced to @Dyson employees that we’ve begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to launch in 2020. pic.twitter.com/yUZNvIsYIi

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— Dyson (@Dyson) September 26, 2017

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Filed under: Battery,News

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