British industrial design engineer and founder of the Dyson company, James Dyson, poses next to the model of an engine during a photo session at a hotel in Paris on October 11, 2018. (AFP/Christophe Archambault)
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 its research and development remains in Britain.
One of the best-known engineering companies in the United Kingdom, Dyson announced a $2.6 billion move into electric cars last year after a 400-strong British-based engineering team spent the first 2-1/2 years working on the project in secret.
"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.
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.
James Dyson told reporters last year that his ambition to go it alone was driven by the car industry's dismissal of an idea he had of applying his cyclonic technology that revolutionized vacuum cleaners to handle diesel emissions in car exhaust systems 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 is a densely populated city-state and one of the world's most expensive places to own a car.
It controls vehicle population through a system of bidding for the right to own and use a vehicle for a limited number of years. Elon Musk, chief executive of Tesla, criticized Singapore for not being supportive of electric vehicles earlier this year.
But the city state has trade agreements with China and Japan and Dyson CEO Rowan said the comparatively high cost base would be offset by its technology expertise and focus.
"It is therefore the right place to make high-quality technology loaded machines, and the right place to make our electric vehicle," he said.
Dyson started its work on the electric car in Wiltshire, western England, where it is investing 200 million pounds ($260 million) in new buildings and a testing track at its campus.
In Singapore, where it already employs 1,100 people to build digital electric motors, it will build a new two-story production manufacturing facility, with the first cars set to be launched in 2021.