Dyson, the British engineering company best known for inventing bagless, cyclonic vacuum cleaners, is developing what it says is a "radical" electric car which will be ready for launch in 2020 – even though it does not yet have a chassis.

The company said 400 engineers have been working on a secret project for the past two years at its UK headquarters in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.

While Dyson's expertise in electric motors is well known, it is likely to struggle to enter the auto industry within the next two and a bit years without even a prototype or a factory to build a vehicle.

Founder Sir James Dyson (a staunch Brexit supporter) gave no further details of the project, telling staff in an email: "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."

Important points that are undecided or secret include the firm's expected annual production total, the cost of the car, or its range or top speed.

Dyson said the company was spending GBP1bn (US$1.3bn) to develop the car and a further GBP1bn on the battery. Further development work would be carried out at a former air force base close to its headquarters.

Dyson hinted to the BBC the car would be upmarket and would look "radical and different" but would not be aimed at the mass market. He added the motor is designed and ready to go.

He also said he has been interested in developing filtration technology to stop vehicle diesel emissions polluting the environment for almost 30 years.

Dyson's first vacuum cleaners were made in an English factory but production was later transferred to Malaysia. As well as its pioneering cyclonic vacuum cleaners, the company now produces innovative hand dryers, fans, heaters and hair dryers.

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