Brexiteer vacuum inventor to build electric cars in Singapore

British designer and engineer James Dyson peeks through a fan without blades in Hamburg, Germany, 25 March 2010 (reissued 26 September 2017). [EPA-EFE/MAURIZIO GAMBARINI GERMANY OUT]

James Dyson, the billionaire British inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, has chosen to build his electric car in Singapore to be close to Asian customers, supply chains and a highly skilled workforce.

The 71-year-old entrepreneur, who backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum, already manufactures products such as hair dryers, air purification systems and bladeless fans in Asia, while the company’s research and development remains in Britain.

Dyson said last year that a 400-strong, British-based engineering team had been secretly working for more than two years on a $2.6 billion project to build an electric car.

The company, one of Britain’s biggest manufacturing success stories, has not shown any designs for its electric vehicle, although Dyson has said it will not be like anything else on the market and will not be “very cheap”.

‘Chicken and egg’ electric cars spark debate about battery charging

Carmakers and e-mobility advocates continue to be at odds over whether lack of choice of electric vehicles or lack of charging infrastructure is the main thing holding Europe back from embracing a transport revolution. A new study insists that there are chargers-a-plenty already.

Dyson, who is not working with established car companies on the project, had said the vehicle would be made close to suppliers and its potential biggest markets, namely in Asia.

“The decision of where to make our car is complex, based on supply chains, access to markets, and the availability of the expertise that will help us achieve our ambitions,” Dyson Chief Executive Jim Rowan said after Singapore was chosen on Tuesday.

Dyson already employs 1,100 people making 21 million digital electric motors every year in Singapore.

It said it would build a new two-storey manufacturing facility in the city state, scheduled for completion in 2020, with the first cars rolling off production lines a year later.

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “Singapore used to assemble cars until the 1980s. Now we will manufacture cars again, except this time greener, better, and more high tech!”

Carmakers are stepping up investment in electric vehicles in response to ever-tightening emissions restrictions and penalties on the use of internal combustion engines, with some countries already promising outright bans.

Dyson is looking to exploit its ability in solid-state battery technology and electric motors that are found in its innovative vacuum cleaners and other products.

He told reporters last year that his ambition to take on the car makers was triggered when the industry dismissed his idea to use the cyclonic technology that revolutionized vacuum cleaners to clean diesel exhaust emissions in the 1990s.

The inventor was a prominent backer of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and has argued that Britain’s future lies in building close ties with fast-growing markets in Asia, and not Europe.

Singapore trade deal cannot be concluded by EU alone, ECJ rules

The European Union will have to secure approval from national parliaments in order to finalise a free trade deal with Singapore. The bloc’s top court ruled that the agreement in “its current form” cannot be handled by the Commission acting alone.

Subscribe to our newsletters