Apple Car Rises Again As New Report Beefs Up Production, Supplier Details
Rumors of Cupertino tech giant Apple Inc's plans to manufacture a hypothetical electric vehicle continue to persist in the market. According to a report by the Taiwanese news outlet DigiTimes, Apple, who is allegedly working on a vehicle dubbed as the 'Apple Car' for now, will enter mass production for the vehicle in a couple of years from now. This makes it the second time that rumors of the vehicle entering production have surfaced. Today's report matches its timeline with an earlier one from Reuters that surfaced in December last year.
Apple Reportedly Looking At Partnerships With Korean Battery And Powertrain For Purported Apple Car
DigiTimes' report, hidden behind a paywall, states that Apple is in talks carmakers and suppliers for the Apple Car. The few available details suggest that the company is in talks with South Korean battery and memory manufacturers for the vehicle. Specifically, DigiTimes reports that Apple's representatives have visited LG Electronics and SK Group. The former's chemicals division, LG Chem, manufactures batteries for Palo Alto, California electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc ad the latter is known for its memory modules and has other divisions as well. Previous reports have also mentioned Korean firms, suggesting that SK Hynix's battery manufacturing arm SK Innovation and LG Magna e-Powertrain, a Canadian joint-venture were involved.
Additionally, today's report also reiterates a rumored mass production timeline for the vehicle. DigiTimes believes that the Apple Car might enter mass production in 2024, which was mentioned in an earlier report from Reuters. This report, which surfaced in December last year, outlined that Apple was sufficiently comfortable with its designs for a 2024 mass production timeline but cautioned that supply chain delays, particularly those stemming from the ongoing pandemic, could delay this to 2025.
It also revealed that Apple was interested in Light Detection and Ranging (LiDar) sensors for the vehicle and that a unique "monocell" battery design would increase the vehicle's range over potential competitors as it would allow Apple to pack in more energy components inside the battery pack. Apple was also rumored to have been interested in Lithium Phosphate (LP) for the battery materials due to its safety.
Commenting on the rumors, Tesla's chief Mr. Elon Musk, whose company remains the only American manufacturer to have successfully mass-produced electric vehicles, stated that the report was "strange."
In a tweet, the executive outlined that:
Strange, if true.
- Tesla already uses iron-phosphate for medium range cars made in our Shanghai factory.
- A monocell is electrochemically impossible, as max voltage is ~100X too low. Maybe they meant cells bonded together, like our structural battery pack?
Citing the Reuters report in his blog, veteran Apple journalist shared his enthusiasm about the project but cautioned readers to remain skeptical.
Gruber's beliefs were:
My favorite story about the Apple car project — from before the reset heralded by the return of Doug Field — is that they actually had a concept for an Apple-designed and branded car. And they added it all up and it turned out to be so embarrassingly expensive that they had to seriously hit the reset button. That’s the way it goes, no shame in that.
I’m quite certain that Apple has a very talented team, a division even, working their asses off on this, and might well come up with the iPhone of cars. But I’ll take all Project Titan related news with a grain of salt until we see something real.
Today's report also follows an analyst note from Morgan Stanley, with the bank's analysts stressing that Apple needed to get the car's design right before proceeding to integrate it into its services ecosystem.
Analyst Katy Huberty, in a note courtesy of another veteran Apple journalist Phillip Elmer-Dewitt, stated that:
Right. Well, first, let me reiterate something, because I get this question a lot. Does Apple really want to build a car? Why don’t they just focus on the software and services? Apple is successful when they’re vertically integrated. They want a hand in the design, in how the software communicates with the hardware, what are the right components and technologies to use. And so, well, yes, any big technology, the most significant value is in terms of profit dollars but also in terms of alpha-generated by investors and in software and services for sure. But Apple will just as much focus on the other elements—building, designing, what that vehicle looks like, how the components and the software operate together—as it will on the services.
So, I want to reiterate that because it comes up so often. And ultimately—and they proved this with the phone just recently—that services in total has become more than 20 percent of Apple’s revenue. Still the iPhone is half of the business. So, they can’t be successful in services until they’re successful in selling the device that this new type of computer and services sit on top of.
So, I wouldn’t put the cart before the horse. Yes, there will be an important element around what services will become available in an automobile once the driver’s focus and attention is freed up, but first they have to get the car right. You and I have debated this before. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple comes to market with an EV, right? A car that looks similar to automobiles that are on the market today with a steering wheel. They did this with the iPhone where in the first iPhone, there was no app store. It was first about getting the hardware right. How do you differentiate on the hardware? It was a larger screen that ultimately paved the way to watch Netflix and play video games and what-have-you on that device. I think the focus right now, I’m sure, is on design and the vehicle itself, but with well thought out plans around what services could emerge longer term.
Elmer commented that the 'cart' is the software and services in this scenario, while the 'horse' is the actual hardware. Apple's primary manufacturing partner, the Taiwanese Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Ltd., is also expanding its electric vehicle segment. Still, given the current lack of details for the Apple Car, it's uncertain how Apple will proceed towards mass production, which is one of the toughest aspects of a vehicle.