By Paul Sandle
LONDON (Reuters) - James Dyson, billionaire inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, said on Tuesday his company was building an electric car which will launch by 2020, the latest firm to challenge traditional carmakers in a burgeoning market.
Tesla has already shaken up the sector around the world and Dyson said it would now spend 2 billion pounds ($2.7 billion) on solid-state battery technology and vehicle design.
Dyson had been developing new battery and electric motor technology for its vacuum cleaners and other products for the past 20 years, he said.
"Battery technology is very important to Dyson, electric motors are very important to Dyson, environmental control is very important to us," Dyson, aged 71, said at his company's flagship shop on London's Oxford Street.
"I have been developing these technologies consistently because I could see that one day we could do a car."
Dyson told staff in an email that the company finally had the opportunity to bring all its technologies together into a single product.
"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," he added.
Dyson said a 400-strong team of engineers had already spent 2-1/2 years working on the secret project in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, developing the batteries that will power the in-house designed electric motor for the car.
The firm has yet to decide on where the vehicle would be manufactured, although it has ruled out working with any existing auto companies, Dyson said.
Last year, the government said in a report it was helping to fund a new battery electric vehicle at the firm, which will secure 174 million pounds ($233 million) of investment in the area and create over 500 jobs.
The entry was quickly changed and Dyson declined to comment at the time in a sign of the secrecy shrouding the project.
Dyson said the firm needed to make the announcement on Tuesday because it was becoming hard to talk to subcontractors, government and potential new employees.
(Writing by Paul Sandle and Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison)