Apple is moving forward with its electric self-driving car technology after all, and will start production in 2024, according to a report from Reuters. Apple plans to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own battery technology. Apple first started to design its own vehicle way back in 2014, and the project has been a bit awkward at best, and many thought it was dead for a long time. Reuters noted that Apple veteran, Doug Field, who worked at Tesla returned to Apple to oversee this project, known as Project Titan, in 2018, and then he laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.
From then on, Apple has progressed enough to the point that it plans to build a vehicle for consumers, according to two people who are familiar with the project. They asked Reuters not to name them because Apple’s plans are not yet public — well, they kinda are now.
“Breakthrough” Battery Design & Supply Chain Issues
The article noted that Apple had a breakthrough battery design that could be included in the vehicle. This new battery design could “radically reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range,” according to another anonymous source who has seen Apple’s battery design.
Another source told Reuters that Apple plans to use a unique “monocell” battery design that bulks up the individual cells in the battery, which frees up space inside the battery pack. It does this by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials. This design could mean that more active material can be packed inside the battery, which would give the car a longer range.
The source also told Reuters that Apple may use lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries. They are less likely to overheat, but LFP batteries are widely used in electric buses as well as some electric cars, including Model 3 vehicles produced in China. However, the source seems to think Apple is onto something big and new. “It’s next level,” the person said, “Like the first time you saw the iPhone.”
Another thing touched upon was the supply chain challenges Apple could face. Apple has never made a car before, and although it has the ability to make hundreds of millions of electronics every year, it may struggle at making a car. Looking at Tesla as a prime example, it took 17 years before it started making a sustained profit from automobile production.
One challenge Apple doesn’t have (from what I can tell) is that Apple’s critics are not as passionately filled with malice toward its CEO as in the case of Tesla.
Another unnamed person who worked on Project Titan told Reuters, “If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cellphone.”
An Apple-Branded Car
As in the past, the sources have reportedly said that they expect Apple to rely on a manufacturing partner to create the vehicles. In fact, Apple could just develop the autonomous driving system, which could integrate with cars from traditional automakers. Maybe. Someday. Perhaps.
Two unnamed sources told Reuters that pandemic-related delays could push the start of production into 2025 or beyond. Another two unnamed sources noted that Apple is working with outside partners for elements of its system, including lidar sensors. Another source said that Apple’s car may feature multiple lidar sensors and some could be derived from Apple’s internally developed lidar units. Apple’s new iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models have lidar sensors.
If Apple Is Serious, Then It Will Be Tesla Ally, And Legacy Auto Has More Problems
If Apple is serious about its battery technology, and if these sources, which are all unnamed, are completely accurate in their statements, then Apple could be a serious ally to Tesla in its mission to accelerate sustainability. Although some of Tesla’s more hardcore critics may incite FUD by claiming Apple is going to destroy Tesla or whatever, it’s not. Tesla is definitely here to stay — another topic for another day.
There are other EV startups that are also allying with Tesla on its mission by creating their own vehicles, but like Tesla, Apple has its own core supporters who love the brand, believe in the tech, and are all too happy to drop a grand on a new phone or computer — imagine if Apple sold an EV to its following. Apple lovers would happily make the switch just to say they own an iCar, or whatever the car will be named.
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