Apple Electric Car Planned For 2019, Team To Triple To ~1,800

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

We’ve been writing about the possibility of an Apple electric car for what seems ages. Though, things have really heated up this year and it seems like everyone high up in the auto industry is expecting Apple to join the car business.

In recent months, Apple has poached Tesla’s top autonomous driving engineer, poached other Tesla engineers with $250,000 signing bonuses, hired a former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executive, poached a top engineer from A123 Systems, put hundreds of people to work on “Project Titan” (as it is called), and engaged in other funky business. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple’s first electric car will hit the market in 2019. (Who leaks info to the WSJ these days, I don’t know, but I’ll assume it’s legit.)

apple carAccording to the WSJ‘s anonymous source, Project Titan has been designated a “committed project.” This comes after a year of intensive work investigating the potential, including meetings with “two groups” of California government officials.

Apple is reportedly now planning to triple the number of people working on Project Titan, bringing it up to ~1,800. (With 1,800 people working on this project, you know we’re in for more leaks! 😉 😀 )

Surprisingly, despite all the hype being about Apple getting into the autonomous car game — and some people speculating that that’s all it’s been intending to do with Project Titan — the insider told the WSJ that it is going to start simply with an electric car. Of course, that makes plenty of sense, considering that fully autonomous cars are still super expensive to make, face huge regulatory hurdles, and still face big technical challenges. Entering the burgeoning and super promising electric car market — one that Big Auto is absurdly dragging its feet on — makes a lot more sense.

Clearly, Apple would face the big challenge of competing with Tesla (as well as Big Auto), but there is plenty of room in the market for more good options, and I could see Apple partnering with Tesla to give its customers access to Tesla’s Supercharger network. Furthermore, Apple is sitting on ~$200 billion in cash, which allows it plenty of room to get running. I’m actually surprised that 2019 is the target launch year.

With 2019 the target launch year, though, I wonder how Apple will actually look to enter. Batteries should be at such a place where Apple could theoretically launch with a long-range but affordable electric car. I could also look to make a big splash by launching with a few models — some more expensive and luxurious than others.

Two things are for sure though, imho: 1) the electric car market is going to be a lot different (read: a lot bigger) in 2019, and 2) Apple is going to look to become a big player in the market, and perhaps with a huge initial splash.

The WSJ goes on and on about the difficulty of getting a car to market by 2019, and sketicism even from within, but let’s be honest here: $100 billion or $200 billion can go a long freakin’ way in speeding up the development process. As just one example of that, Apple is able to hire a lot of seasoned experts from the auto world who have the right connections and know how to get things done. With a focus on making the design and prototype development process move along fast — and proper organization and leadership to enable that — Apple shouldn’t have much trouble getting a car on the production line by 2019.

But let’s remember that Apple will be facing a ton more competition than if it brought a car to market today. GM, Nissan, Volkswagen, Audi (if you want to count it as a separate company), Porsche (again, if you want to count it as a separate company), and of course Tesla have all announced plans or concepts for long-range, affordable electric cars. BMW intends to have plug-in versions of every single one of its models sometime in the early 2020s.

No matter how you cut the cake, though, this is exciting news for the electric car market, and society in general. This is the highest valued company in the world, and it is putting a lot of its money and resources behind electric cars. It sees electric cars as the future. Such a vision may seem obvious to those of us who thoroughly understand the benefits of electric vehicles. But the large majority still don’t know about most of these benefits. Apple will surely help guide their attention in that direction and speed up the EV revolution.

Is this a threat to Tesla and Tesla shareholders like me? I don’t think so. Tesla’s vision has been to speed up the transition to EVs. It has clearly inspired Big Auto to do more, and I’m sure it’s happy to be inspiring Apple and Google as well. As I just said, Apple entering the market will bring many more consumers in, and a good number of them may well look around and decide Tesla has the best products on the market. Generally speaking, a much bigger EV market is going to reward Tesla, the clear pacesetter.

Furthermore, any company looking to compete with Tesla is going to need to offer its customers widespread fast-charging infrastructure. No one is close to matching Tesla with that, and Tesla is adding approximately one Supercharger station a week. Apple would have to either make a tremendous investment in a similar network and spend years building it up, or pay Tesla to use the Supercharger network — I think the latter is a likely choice.

Similarly, anyone looking to sell a lot of electric cars is going to need a huge supply of batteries. Tesla and Panasonic are far and away leading the pack in battery production capacity expansion. Tesla is surely already thinking about where to build its 2nd and 3rd Gigafactories. Apple could partner with someone else, like LG Chem or Samsung, but it could very well partner up with Silicon Valley neighbor to the north Tesla.

A lot can happen in 4 years, but count me excited and optimistic. The future is electric, and the only question is how fast we get to that future.

Image by Emma (some rights reserved)

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Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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28 thoughts on “Apple Electric Car Planned For 2019, Team To Triple To ~1,800

  • The picture of the car is pretty accurate, but it doesn’t do it justice. It needs bigger wheels. I heard thats the style these days.
    Maybe the government would have something to say about side crash protection.

    • Yeah, but how about that leaf?! That will sell the thing. Nissan was close, but it really should have put one of those on the roof.

      • Nissan should put the leaf on top and copyright it. But Nissan can’t have a candy apple red color. Thats Apple proprietary.

        • The best tasting apples are not bright red ones.

          Let Apple have its ‘bred for looks, screw the taste’ red delicious.

          • I already copyrighted organic apples with wormholes look.
            Bred for taste, screw the looks. Thanks for my new ad slogan.

          • Worms aren’t fools. They go for taste, not looks.

  • Best image I’ve seen for the Apple car yet.

  • The real threat are the Patent Attorneys of Apple. They are the best attorneys in the world. They will patent autonomous driving and the interfaces in ways that will invalidate others and then sue everyone else that will try to be as trendy with their versions.

    • You said it. Apple attorneys are already busy writing up litigation to sue CT for use of that outstanding image in this article, as we speak. Nobody can infringe on Apples right to use an image of a fruit. Well except for a music company owned by the Beatles.

    • they can try patenting all the stuff they want, but with patents, there’s a thing called “prior art” – basically if you can prove you had that technology and used it before the patent was filed, the patent holder would have no legal basis to sue you for patent violations. Most major car companies have some form of autonomous driving elements (lane keep assist, automatic braking, etc) that has been in place for a few years now. Apple will have to prove that THEY aren’t violating OTHER companies’ patents.

  • I’d love to see Apple get into the game. The more the merrier at this point. Especially seeing how the VW Group ( Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, SEAT, ŠKODA, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Ducati, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania and MAN) may be taking a little timeout from innovation as their capital finds a new home which they don’t own.

    I’d be surprised to see an Apple EV for less than $35k and I suspect that’s where most of the action will be by the time Apple puts something together.

    Apple could be the new Buick….

  • 1800 people and 4 years of development. i wonder whit what they will come upto.

    if the average salary is 50k it will be 360 million $ on salary’s

    • $50K + shares would be okay, otherwise, you won’t have enough to rent apartment and buy food, drinks, party with firends with that measely sum in the Bay Area. Was thinking at least $100K per personnel.

      • Build it in Australia. The Australian Peso isn’t worth anything now and the death of our car industry means there are plenty of unemployed automotive engineers around. Tesla’s already snapped some up, so Apple had better hurry.

      • A one bedroom apartment goes for $3000 in Silicon Valley, that is why they have thousands of homeless people who can not afford housing.

  • Will they have proprietary electricity?

  • iCar? 3 times as expensive, when the battery dies you have to buya new iCar ( every 14 months), only comes in white, no radio, iTunes.

    • I have a feeling Apple will have a different approach to cars than to smartphones and computers. 😉

      (Also, my experience is that Apple devices last and work well much longer than those of competitors — several years. It’s just that a lot of people feel the need to upgrade every couple of years.)

  • Buying Tesla would be cheaper than building their own vehicles. Tesla is in the neighborhood, and already uses Apple devices. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen.

    • I don’t know why Musk and the other people running Tesla would sell to anyone. Most of them are probably already rich and most/all of them are on a mission.

      If Tesla plays their cards right they could be one of the major global car manufacturers in a few years. All they really need is for most of the other car manufacturers to keep on farting around for a few more years.
      (And it looks like what might have been their first major challenger just blew off both of its feet. VW is likely to be distracted for a while and damaged goods for a while longer.)

      If Tesla starts selling their Mod3 in 2017 (which would mean the Gigafactory was running) and it’s “Tesla quality” then they will completely blow away the mid-priced car market. Their earnings and booming stock price would allow them to quickly expand, selling millions of cars per year.

      A company breaks into the ‘top ten’ with just a bit over 2 million cars per year. Get to 2 million and you’re selling more than Mitsubishi, BMW, Mazda, and Daimler.

      At $30k Tesla can grab the market away from the least expensive BMWs, Mercedes and Audis. With <$150/kWh batteries they can sell a $45k – $50k ModS and drop the price of the top ModS to under $80k while still making sweet money. Major damage to a lot of big players.

      Then come in with a sub $25k car and Zach's your uncle.

      If Tesla holds their position for a couple more years, builds their recognition level further so that people learn about how they treat and take care of their customers, etc. Tesla will be a force. I don't see any potential for anyone to match their Mod3 until at least 2020. There likely won't be the needed battery manufacturing capacity until then. Someone could sell a comparable EV but not in large numbers.

      Who's going to go deal with jerks in the dealerships at Ford, Toyota, etc. when they can be treated royally by Tesla? Who's going to purchase an EV from a company that doesn't have an extensive rapid charging system in place?

      Tesla sell to Apple? I don't see it.

      • Hi Bob, I highly doubt that Tesla would willingly sell to Apple as well. My simple comment was only that it would be cheaper for Apple to buy Tesla at this point (before X and 3 are released) than building a company division that would effectively be a 2nd Tesla.

        Just for fun, let’s explore the concept. With Apple sitting on so much cash, they could create a greenmail crisis for Tesla. They could withdraw their devices or support for same (though Tesla has no doubt inoculated themselves from this threat with contracts). Remember when Apple was in a cash crunch in 1997 and was helped my Microsoft money when Gates bought a bunch of their code (mostly to protect Microsoft, which had stolen some of it already)?

        Funny things can happen in business. Launch dates can keep getting missed (joke). Fortunes can rise and fall. Board members could be faced with challenging propositions. Musk wants to bring great vehicles to the world, but many analysts don’t see him staying at Tesla for decades, so maybe Apple can offer him a quicker exit plan.

        I hope that you aren’t saying that Apple hasn’t talked about it, or even run some scenarios about how it could happen. My guess is that they would love to make it happen. There are other scenarios, too, such as Tesla making Apple’s cars, or a stock swap. Then, from there who knows what the future holds.

        Personally, I hope they stay apart, their full current 20.5 miles apart. I don’t like Apple at all, and I love Tesla.

        • There might be a chance of a hostile takeover. I don’t know how the stock is distributed. I would imagine the people at the top have protected themselves against that by owning controlling shares and signing ‘first right to purchase’ agreements.

          I would expect that purchasing Tesla has been discussed at Apple at some point. It would be pretty much impossible not to have kicked around the idea a bit.

          Apple does have a lot of money.

          Now, why would Apple pay a premium price for Tesla rather than use their money to set up their own auto company?

          If they bought Tesla they might get little of the brainpower. A lot of the more knowledgeable people might be offended by Apple’s takeover, cash out their stock for millions, and move on to someplace else.

          Apple would most likely pay a premium price for the building and equipment.

          Their takeover might somewhat sour the Tesla name. Elon has become something of a public hero.

          Apple would likely be better off starting their own shop. It’s not like Apple would need to create an instantaneous cash flow.

          There’s plenty room for a second Tesla. And a third. And a fourth. Look at the brands now in the luxury car field – BMW, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes, Cadillac, etc. They’ve got market to give up to some companies building very high quality EVs.

          Here’s a thought. Were you around during the beginning of Apple? When we moved from refrigerator sized computers to boxes on our desks? The Apple II was all about putting a working, usable computer into lots of ordinary hands. It was priced extremely low (relative to the other options).

          Perhaps Apple might use its very deep pockets to build or help build its own Gigafactory, set up large scale body manufacturing and start pumping out Apple II, The Car. The sub-$25k EV I’ve been thinking about lately.

          Tesla couldn’t start there because Tesla didn’t have the financing. Apple does.

          Apple understands large scale manufacturing. While it’s with smaller products, the issues should be roughly the same. Efficient plants and supply streams. Win over a lot of the market with good design.

          (Lord, er, His Noodliness knows the small EV market needs a visually appealing option.)

          • Yes, I remember the Apple II and IIe well.

            As I wrote, anything’s possible.

            I thought Zach already was everybody’s uncle? lol

          • ​Naw, he’s somebody’s daddy….​

          • I haven’t looked but it is very common for software companies to have a poison pill in its stock. Simple version is along the line if someone buys more that a certain precent then of the stock then other people shares double. That way the takeover people have to take with the board or get enough existing stock holders to join together to push a resolution in a general stock holder meeting. Anyone read all those fun pages of legal print for TESLA?

          • Hi Matt, I believe that the existing stockholders are allowed the right to buy more shares, sometimes at a discount, a right that isn’t given to the suitor.

  • What I would like to see is an IBM electric car.

    Like the original IBM PC (and unlike the Apple Macintosh), it would be built from off-the-shelf modular components using open-source, industry-standard form factors and interfaces, and would thereby spur growth of an industry of third-party component and upgrade manufacturers, and make it easy for smaller companies — even local shops — to assemble “clone” EVs from parts.

    That’s what rapidly drove down the cost of personal computers in the 1980s, and it’s the path to high-performance, upgradeable, dirt-cheap, mass-market EVs — as opposed to the costly, proprietary Macintoshes and NeXTs that dominate the EV market today.

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