Dyson to invest £2bn to develop electric car

The engineering company’s battery-powered electric vehicle is expected to be on the roads by 2020, with a 400-strong team working to develop it.

Engineering giant Dyson has revealed plans to launch its own electric car by 2020.

The company is investing £2bn to make its battery electric vehicle a reality, and has compiled a team of 400 employees to work on the project.

The team is comprised of Dyson engineers and people whose backgrounds are in the automotive industry, some of whom the company has recently poached from the likes of Aston Martin and Tesla, according to Bloomberg.

In an open letter to the company’s employees, founder Sir James Dyson writes that it is “our obligation” to find a solution to “the world’s largest single environmental risk”: air pollution.

“Solve the vehicle pollution problem”

He cites a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, which details that in 2012 roughly seven million people died as a result of air pollution exposure, which was one in eight of the total global deaths that year.

Dyson adds: “Some years ago, observing that automotive firms were not changing their spots, I committed the company to developing new battery technologies. I believed that electrically powered vehicles would solve the vehicle pollution problem.”

Technologies such as digital motors and energy storage systems are already used in existing Dyson products, such as the Supersonic hair dryer and its range of cord-free vacuums.

Developing an electric car will give the company the opportunity to “bring all [its] technologies together into a single product”, says Dyson.

What do designers think?

Hugo Jamson, creative director at transport design consultancy New Territory argues that engineering and technology companies like Dyson are “exactly the kind of firms” that can bring fresh, new ideas to car design.

Jamson says: “There’s a sense that traditional automotive brands have too much legacy thinking and too many existing market segments to protect to allow them to develop a car that genuinely offers something new.

“Dyson has a clean slate to propose fresh solutions, from an engineering perspective of course, but also to reframe the car as a different kind of product or space in individual, family and even national life.”

Seymourpowell lead automotive designer, Richard Seale, also makes the point that to be a part of the mass-produced car industry 10 years ago, companies needed to have a “long-standing” and “well-established” name.

Seale says that this attitude has changed over the last decade, and cites the way that Apple took on the big players in the telecommunications industry as an example of a “disruptive new player” successfully revolutionising an existing market.

“I believe that a company like Dyson will bring a new way of looking at manufacturing a car,” says Seale. “They will almost certainly stick to what they know best, looking to work with plastics and combine as many functions in to as minimal amount of parts as possible.”

He adds: “I hope they look to revolutionise as they have in the hand dryer world.”

Roll out

Dyson’s electric car is expected to launch in 2020.

Latest articles

Remembering Jon Daniel: 1966-2017

We look back on the life and work of the Design Week columnist, independent creative director and social activist “who helped put black participation on the political map”.