- Founder James Dyson at the Dyson HQ in Malmesbury, England. Licensed to Dyson Ltd.

Vacuum Tycoon James Dyson To Roll Out An Electric Car By 2020

Will it suck ... or sweep the competition?

Since British billionaire James Dyson acquired the promising Michigan-based battery startup Sakti3 in 2015, rumors have abounded that Dyson's eponymous company, known for its vacuums, would be jumping into the world of electric cars. Dyson confirmed Tuesday that plan is real, and that Dyson cars will launch by 2020. "At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product," Dyson said in a company-wide email. "Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source."

Dyson, worth an estimated $4.5 billion, says his team already includes 400 engineers and they are "recruiting aggressively." In all, he says Dyson Ltd. will spend about $2.7 billion on the research and development. "The project will grow quickly from here but at this stage we will not release any information," Dyson says in the email. "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."

Malmesbury 8 September 2016 Licensed to Dyson Ltd for Internal and Press use including sharing with external publications for their print and online editions .

This move isn't that surprising. Dyson's products include the cyclonic vacuum that made it famous, as well as a hair dryer, hand dryers, air purifiers and heating and cooling systems. Its intellectual property has a far wider reach, spanning the world of motors, batteries and air flow. In the email, Dyson say his company has actually been working on a solution to car exhaust since 1990, when they began trying to adapt the cyclonic vacuum filter to fit a vehicle's exhaust system to trap particulates. What drove him then was a paper by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health from 1988 which linked exhaust from diesel engines to premature death in laboratory mice and rats. By 1993, he says, Dyson Ltd. had several working prototypes but nobody at the time was interested, so they put the project on pause.

"In the period since, governments around the world have encouraged the adoption of oxymoronically designated ‘clean diesel’ engines through subsidies and grants," Dyson writes. "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."

Dyson Ltd. A 1990 design sketch for Dyson's car exhaust filter.

Dyson Ltd. A 1990 design sketch for Dyson's car exhaust filter.

Forbes Magazine got an exclusive look at Dyson's secret R&D labs in 2016, and how the Sakti3 acquisition would expand the company's reach. A spin off from the University of Michigan, Sakti3 is a leading startup that is focused on scaling solid-state batteries that use a ceramic wafer on which stacks of film are deposited instead of the liquid electrolyte in conventional batteries, making them much safer. Solid-state can also store over 30% more energy for the same volume or over 50% more for the same mass, according to one of Sakti3's patent applications, which means products could be smaller and lighter than they are with today's most advanced liquid lithium-ion batteries. Toyota, Nissan and Bosch have also been developing their own solid-state batteries to replace the current rechargeable batteries on the market. Tesla, instead, has been going all in on figuring out how to improve the current liquid lithium-ion batteries in Tesla vehicles today.

In the email, Dyson also cited a World Health Organization report that in 2012, seven 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," he adds.

SOURCE: Chloe Sorvino - FORBES.COM


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