LONDON -- Dyson, best known for its vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, is charging ahead with a 2-billion-pound ($2.6 billion) push to start building electric cars, unveiling plans to turn a former airfield into a vehicle-testing site.
The technology center at the former Hullavington Airfield in England will bring the British manufacturer's investment to 200 million pounds to create engineering work spaces and over 10 miles (17 km) of test tracks, the Sheffield-based company said Thursday in a statement.
"Our growing automotive team is now working from Dyson's state-of-the-art hangars at Hullavington Airfield," CEO Jim Rowan said in the statement. "We are now firmly focused on the next stage of our automotive project strengthening our credentials."
Dyson said on Thursday it expected the vehicle to be on the road sometime in 2021. The company is joining a list of traditional and new competitors entering an increasingly crowded race to make electric cars. Volkswagen, Daimler and General Motors all plan to offer a suite of electric vehicles starting from about next year, while Tesla is pushing into the mass market with the Model 3.
Unlike those carmakers that use established lithium-ion battery technology, Dyson will use solid-state batteries it says are smaller and more efficient. Toyota is also working on solid-state batteries and last year said it hoped to have them in electric vehicles by the early 2020s.
Dyson, which already counts a 400-strong automotive team, said it plans to add another 300 positions to work on the car in the UK. That will help to offset a long list of companies moving operations out of the country amid concern for negative fallout from Brexit. In another positive sign, sports-car maker Aston Martin Wednesday announced a share sale plan in London, signaling confidence for investor demand.
Dyson was hoping to "create more high-skilled jobs for Britain," Rowan said.
Dyson outlined it electric car plans a year ago.
Dyson on Thursday posted a surge in revenue for 2017, driven by demand from Asia. Dyson has seen its "center of gravity" tilt toward Asia, which last year generated almost three quarters of revenue growth, company founder James Dyson said.
Revenue increased 40 percent to 3.5 billion pounds ($4.8 billion) in 2017, while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization increased 27 percent to 801 million pounds from a year earlier, the company said.
Continued growth will help fund the company's bid to build an electric car by 2020.
Dyson declined to comment on any details of the car, but hinted it will involve a range of autonomous technology, such as the company's 360-degree camera currently used in its robotic vacuum.
"We are trying to build products that do what they do automatically," he said, adding that he wanted to speed up the rate at which the company’s products are autonomous, such as eliminating the need to manually switch them on or off.
The company has yet to decide where manufacture the vehicle, with locations in the UK and Asia being considered.