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Dyson is emerging as a major disruptor in the car industry

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Following French president Emmanuel Macron’s decision to only manufacture electric and hybrid cars from 2019 onwards, Britain is set to ban petrol and diesel vehicles. It won’t be enforced until 2040, which means that companies, including Dyson, have time to capitalise on the move.

It’s part of the government’s plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, one of the methods of “delivering cleaner air” highlighted in its drafted Clean Air Strategy.

With the UK being one of 17 EU nations breaching annual targets for nitrogen dioxide, preparations are already under way, with the government providing £255m to cities to deal with any resultant issues.

Making the most of the news is Dyson, which has announced a £2bn-focus on developing electric cars. The BBC suggested 400 members of staff had been working on the project in secret for the past two years, with not much known apart from the fact that it will be “radical”.

Founder James Dyson has been elusive about the project, the BBC notes, only claiming the company had to deliver an astounding product given the amount of “fierce competition”.

This should hardly be surprising though, Jeremy Howells, professor of innovation at Kent Business School, opined. While many believe Dyson has taken a step too far, he points to Elon Musk and suggests the company is already acquainted with the technology used in that space.

“The move into car production is, of course, much more radical in nature, with Dyson emerging as a major UK based disruptor in the car industry; together with Elon Musk’s Tesla, in the (now) fast changing global motor industry.

“Some observers may say this is a step too far for Dyson, but the key technologies in this disruption, electric motors and batteries, is something which the company has long established core technical capabilities. This will stand it in good stead.

‘Moreover, together with its wider design flair and engineering capability and that the fact it is a private company (with ‘patient capital’) has meant that Dyson has the confidence and long term resources to develop the car using in-house expertise. Some £1bn already been invested in the project (with a further £1bn on related battery technology).

“Undoubtedly Dyson will, at some stage, need specialist technical and engineering from outside, but the UK has a rich base of specialist engineering companies in the motor and F1 business from which to call upon for this. The project has therefore a very good chance of success, with the only other disruptive trend in the industry, driverless technology, posing a potential threat to Dyson’s ambitions here.”

Even in this respect, Howells suggests, Dyson is making headway. It is his belief that the company is in part working on driverless capability for the car in question.

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