James Dyson first developed a bagless vacuum cleaner. (Photo: Dyson)

British vacuum-cleaner maker Dyson plans to invest 2.0 billion pounds to build an electric car that should be ready as early as 2020.

Dyson's visionary founder, James Dyson, unveiled the plan in an email to staff that laid out the reasons behind the move. In 1993, he said, his company had already developed working prototypes of a filter that could trap diesel particulates. But he found little interest in the car industry.

In recent years, Dyson continued, he had retained his ambition to find a solution to curb global air pollution. The company developed digital motors and energy storage systems used, for example, in its hair dryers and vacuum cleaners. Dyson also uses novel fluid dynamics and air conditioning technologies in its fans, heaters and purifiers.

"At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together into a single product," Dyson wrote in the email, which was published in various newspapers and on websites such as Recode.net.

Dyson said he has assembled a 400 strong automotive team for the project, including engineers from the car industry.

Dyson's initiative shows that, increasingly, companies from outside the auto industry see opportunities to enter the rapidly changing mobility market.

Jeremy Howells, professor of innovation at Britain's Kent Business School, said Dyson is emerging as a "major UK based disruptor in the car industry" not unlike Tesla founder Elon Musk. In a written comment, Howells noted that Dyson has the core technical capabilities in electric motors and batteries that are needed in the car industry today.

Said Howells: 'Together with its wider design flair and engineering capability and the fact that it is a private company has meant that Dyson has the confidence and long term resources to develop the car using in-house expertise."

Dyson developed an innovative bagless vacuum cleaner in the 1980s, using so-called cyclone technology. He launched Dyson Appliances in 1991, subsequently developing a range of products, including hair dryers, air purifiers, lighting systems and hand dryers. Dyson's latest generation of vacuum cleaners doesn't have power cords.

-By Arjen Bongard