LONDON -- James Dyson, the British inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, has canceled an electric vehicle project because the plan was not commercially viable.
Dyson said the project was not being closed due to any failures in r&d.
"The Dyson Automotive team has developed a fantastic car; they have been ingenious in their approach while remaining faithful to our philosophies," Dyson said in an email to staff. "However, though we have tried very hard throughout the development process, we simply can no longer see a way to make it commercially viable."
The company had tried to find a buyer for the project but had not succeeded, he said.
Dyson aimed to bring three electric vehicles to market, with the first model due by 2021, building on its expertise in batteries and electric motors to develop EVs. He aimed to disrupt the auto industry in the same way that his vacuum cleaners caused a revolution in the domestic appliance market.
The Dyson company, which planned to use solid-state batteries to power the EVs, bet that its battery know-how would give it an edge in electric vehicles, but the closure of the project indicates it underestimated the complexity and cost of starting a car company from scratch.
Tesla Inc. is the only new large player that has broken into the EV market but it has consumed billions of dollars in investor capital and has yet to produce a full-year profit.
Dyson selected Singapore -- a country that does not have any existing car manufacturing - to build the car -- which was targeted at markets in China and elsewhere in Asia.
Some 500 engineers were working on the project, mostly based at its site in Malmesbury and Hullavington in southwest England.
Dyson said the company was working to find alternative roles for as many of them as possible within other areas of its business, which makes air purifiers, fans and hair dryers as well as cleaners.
Although Dyson is closing its automotive division, it said it would continue to develop solid state batteries, and other technology including vision systems, robotics, machine learning and AI.
Dyson said the company had always taken risks and dared to challenge the status quo with new products and technologies, an approach that has paid off handsomely in vacuum cleaners.
"Such an approach drives progress, but has never been an easy journey – the route to success is never linear," he said. "This is not the first project which has changed direction and it will not be the last."
"Our battery will benefit Dyson in a profound way and take us in exciting new directions," the 72 year-old founder said.
In January Dyson recruited former BMW and Infiniti executive Roland Krueger to head its electric-car business.
Automotive News Europre and Bloomberg contributed to this report