Dyson has become a jewel in the UK’s engineering crown, and its range of vacuum cleaners and dryers represents one of the country’s greatest products.
Its next mission? Putting its engineering and battery expertise into a completely different machine — an electric car. In fact, as a recent report suggests, it’s not just one electric car, but a range of them, and it needs an extra 300 engineers to complete the project.
According to the Financial Times in February, Dyson is said to be planning a trio of EVs to launch over the next decade powered by a solid-state battery pack; an estimated $2.8 billion project set to knock rival Elon Musk’s Tesla off its throne. More recently, reports suggested the company was seeing an extra 300 engineers, in addition to the 400-strong team already reportedly working on the project.
These reports, which have not been commented on directly by Dyson, comes five months after founder, James Dyson, sent a note to employees confirming plans for the project.
Accusing major auto manufacturers of «circumventing and duping clean air regulations», he claimed that rising smog levels is a «problem that others are ignoring.»
The note is said to have been sent to all global employees. What appears to be a mocked-up image of the email was then posted via the official Dyson Twitter handle. Scroll down to see the full text.
See related Dyson invented Google Glass a decade ago Dyson invests $15m to boost your phone's battery life Dyson has redesigned the hairdryer and given it a £299 price tag The best electric cars 2018 UK: The best EVs for sale in the UK Diesel cars "kill 5,000 people a year" in Europe — and the UK is one of the worst offenders Mazda’s new breakthrough just killed diesel engines once and for all Rome joins Germany in banning diesel cars from its city centre China plans to completely ban petrol and diesel cars
Dyson continues in the note that he is committed to finding a solution to the global air pollution problem and plans to invest £2 billion in this battery vehicle project. In fact, the note reads as if this has always been Dyson’s plan since he launched the company, and it is believed a team of engineers has been working on the secret project in Malmesbury, Wiltshire for the past two years. The Dyson car is expected to run technology that has been refined in Dyson’s Supersonic hair dryer and cord-free vacuums. In particular, its digital motor and energy storage systems.
Dyson has previously claimed its digital motors use digital pulse technology making them spin at up to 104,000 times a minute.
In his note, Dyson says that no more information will be released for the time being due to the competitive nature of the industry, and it is not yet known where the cars will be built. However, Dyson is said to have ruled out working with any existing car companies.
The global problem of air pollution is hardly one that others are ignoring. Elon Musk’s Tesla has been championing electric cars for years. This year, alone, BMW has unveiled plans to extend its electric car offering with an electric Mini set to be built in the UK, Ford revealed its plans to go «all-in» on electric cars, Mazda has devised a breakthrough engine and even Jaguar Land Rover is getting involved with hybrids.
James Dyson just announced to @Dyson employees that we%u2019ve begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to launch in 2020. pic.twitter.com/yUZNvIsYIi
— Dyson (@Dyson) September 26, 2017
Earlier this year, the UK government announced plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars across the country by 2040. The ban formed part of its 98-page air quality plan and was proposed by Britain’s environment ministry. It will come into effect to coincide with when all vehicles are required to be fully electric.
To comply with these plans, local authorities would be able to charge levies on the drivers of the diesel vehicles on the most polluted roads from 2020, if air quality does not improve.
READ NEXT: Find your nearest electric car charging station
The same month, Nicola Sturgeon went a step further, outlining her government’s plans to meet its «low carbon ambitions» by phasing out new petrol and diesel cars and vans in Scotland by 2032.
A worrying study published last month linked the premature deaths of a staggering 5,000 people a year to emissions from diesel cars across Europe – and the figure could be closer to 10,000 when you include vans and other light commercial vehicles.
The worst country in the European Union for premature deaths due to emissions was quoted as Italy, followed by Germany and France. The UK sits in fourth.
READ NEXT: The best electric cars in the UK
The chart below shows how UK deaths and diesel emissions compare to other countries in the EU. These figures come from the journal Environmental Research Letters.
EU regulations known as Euro 1 (introduced in 1992) and Euro 6 (introduced in 2014) have worked to improve air quality and under Euro 1, catalytic converters became compulsory on new cars sold in the UK.
Since the late 1990s, there has been a 50/50 split of diesel and petrol cars in the EU, with estimates claiming there are now more than 100 million diesel cars across the continent – twice as many as in the rest of the world combined.
The news about a Dyson-branded electric car doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Last year, the government said it was helping to fund a battery electric vehicle at Dyson in a deal said to be worth £174 million. Reports suggest that Dyson recently wooed a designer from Tesla and Dr Ian Robertson, who was a key player in BMW’s push into electric and autonomous cars, is also non-executive director of Dyson.
READ NEXT: There’s one major problem with our push towards electric cars
James Dyson’s note to employees
«In 1988 I read a paper by the US National Institute of 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.
«In 1993 we had developed several working prototypes and showed an early iteration to British television 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 automotive firms were not changing their sports, I committed the company to develop new battery technology. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem. Dyson carried on innovating.
«The latest digital motor 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 out technologies together into a single product. Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it as 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 her but at this stage we will not release any information.»