Dyson plans to build electric-car test track in Britain

Dyson Hullavington campus for electric car development

In another step to show it’s serious about building an electric car, Dyson, the British vacuum-cleaner maker, has laid out plans to build a test track in Britain.

Reuters reported Thursday that Dyson plans to build a vehicle test track at a former World War II airfield in Wiltshire, England, to go along with previously announced plans for an office building that can accommodate 2,000 employees to work on the company’s electric-car project.

The company has plans to build three electric cars. The first, scheduled to roll out in 2020, is expected to be a “proof-of-concept” to establish the brand and iron out production processes much like the original Tesla Roadster.

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James Dyson, the eccentric inventor of the ball vacuum cleaner and founder of the company told the Financial Times in a March interview that the company will only produce “in the low, single-digit thousands” of its first model.

James Dyson with digital motors [image: Dyson]

Dyson is developing solid-state lithium batteries, which it plans to put into production in its cars, though reports suggest they may not be ready for the first model. The first Dyson may use conventional lithium-ion batteries with liquid electrolyte instead.

Dyson bought, then sold, Sakti3, a Michigan-based startup company working to develop solid-state batteries, and kept most of its patents. The company has said it plans to use these solid-state batteries in its later models.

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James Dyson has suggested that even the first Dyson car will look “quite different” from other vehicles on the road. The company has developed expertise in lightweight materials, somewhat like the BMW i3 with its carbon-fiber reinforced plastic body panels, which could allow production flexibility to produce different types of bodies for the car or cars.

Several other companies are also working on developing various solid-state lithium battery technologies, which could bring lighter, cheaper, and safer batteries for electric cars. Established automakers such as Volkswagen don’t expect to have such batteries on the market until 2025, however.

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