Dyson are making an electric vehicle by 2020

Sir James Dyson is the British inventor, industrial designer and founder of the Dyson company. He’s just made a pretty phenomenal announcement – Dyson are working on a battery electric...

James Dyson, Founder and Chief Engineer (credit: Heathcliff O’Malley)

Sir James Dyson is the British inventor, industrial designer and founder of the Dyson company. He’s just made a pretty phenomenal announcement – Dyson are working on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020. Yep, the same company that makes those fancy blade-less fans and hairdryers are turning their efforts to building a vehicle, that’s kind of insane.

The task of building a vehicle of any type, car, bus, truck etc is a monumental one, one that Tesla is still learning just how difficult it is to achieve. There’s the actual engineering challenges to overcome, the raw materials and supply line of thousands of components, as well as the factory full of robots (and maybe some humans) to build actually them. Then there’s the mountain of testing and safety regulations in each country to pass and making the economics work is a challenge in itself.

All that aside, Dyson has Technology Campuses in Malmesbury and Hullavington UK and they’ve innovated multiple times before and they obviously have big plans to make a difference. This is definitely one we’ll be watching with interest.

Below is the company wide letter Dyson sent to all employees.

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.

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 we stopped 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!



Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.