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James Dyson to roll out "radically different" electric car

Electric car record

Famed British inventor Sir James Dyson announced Tuesday that his company will introduce a "radically different" battery-powered electric car to the automotive market by 2020. 

Dyson's U.K.-based Dyson Ltd. -- famous for its pricey vacuum cleaners -- said in a statement the company has been working on the car concept since 2015 and will invest some $2.7 billion on a rollout by a 400-person team of engineers from Dyson as well as other players in the automotive industry.

Dyson recently hired a new chief spokesman, Ricardo Reyes, who used to lead communications at Tesla Inc. It acquired a Michigan-based battery technology company, Sakti3, in 2015. 

James Dyson wouldn't release details about the vehicle, citing fierce competition in the auto industry "The project will grow quickly from here, but at this stage, we will not release any information," he said in a statement. "Competition for new technology in the automotive industry is fierce, and we must do everything we can to keep the specifics of our car confidential."

Vacuum cleaner inventor Sir James Dyson cleaning up a mess in a corner of the CBS Broadcast Center in New York City in 2011. Taken with Intuition by LG technology

Dyson faces a slew of competitors in the electric car field. With diesel falling out of favor, even in diesel-happy Europe, amid public health concerns following the Volkswagen emissions scandal. companies are clearly indicating that battery power is the fuel of the future.

At this year's Frankfurt Auto Show show, which ran through Sept. 24, Honda (HMC) President Takahiro Hachigo said its four-passenger electric sedan, called the Urban EV Concept, will go on sale in Europe in 2019. The company hasn't said when it might market this vehicle in the U.S., but it's intended as a prototype for Honda electrics worldwide.

"Given the high profile that electrified powertrains have had of late, particularly in Europe, Honda is hoping to raise its profile through this type of alternative powertrain, " said Ian Fletcher, automotive analyst for the firm IHS  Markit.

Honda is also showing a prototype of an electric CR-V, the compact Honda SUV that sells strongly in this country.

James Dyson on learning by making mistakes

Among European brands, Mini (owned by BMW), is also showing  a concept for an upcoming electric model. The Mini has a three-door hatchback body style. It incorporates some design changes such as a closed grille that improves aerodynamics and is made possible because electric engines don't require air for cooling as do internal combustion engines. 

Fletcher of IHS Markit said Mini -- originally a British brand -- will build the electric vehicle at a plant in Oxford, England.

Technology website CNET reports that Dyson has had an interest in helping solve vehicle-related pollution issues since at least 1990, when his company began work on a cyclone-style filter that could trap diesel exhaust particulates. Even with prototypes, nobody showed an interest in the tech, and it was summarily abandoned, CNET explained, noting that an electric car is a logical extension of that distant project.

"Rather than filtering emissions at the exhaust pipe, today we have the ability to solve it at the source," Dyson said in Tuesday's statement. "It is our obligation to offer a solution to the world's largest single environmental risk."

Dyson has been working on vehicle technology on and off since 1990, when its engineers designed a filter that could trap diesel pollutants.

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