For decades, the name Apple has been synonymous with innovation and must-have technology. Nearly every new venture they’ve launched has succeeded. But fans and shareholders of Apple products are a little skeptical about the company’s newest interest: cars. Apple appears to be eyeing a 2024 deadline for the release of its own line of cars. With a revolutionary new battery prototype and the decades of design and tech success they’ll need, the Apple car could be a rousing success – or a weird flop.
Apple is Working On a New Battery
The idea of an Apple car is not a particularly new one. Rumors have been circulating since around 2015 that the company was considering a venture into the world of automobiles with Project Titan. However, a year later, it appeared that they had rethought the venture and scrapped plans for a fully independent vehicle line. Instead, Apple opted to focus on creating software for cars that they could sell to other automotive companies. And in 2019, over 200 people were laid off from Apple’s car-tech division. 2020, however, is the year of renewed hope apparently.
Project Titan has once again been given life. Reuters reports, “Since , Apple has progressed enough that it now aims to build a vehicle for consumers, two people familiar with the effort said, asking not to be named because Apple’s plans are not public. Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service.”
Part of what makes the upcoming Apple car so intriguing is the prototype technology they’re looking to build into their car batteries. Reuters shares that Apple is working on a unique “monocell” technology. This tech bulks up the individual cells in the battery, and frees space by eliminating now-unnecessary pouches and modules.
According to Reuters, “Apple’s design means that more active material can be packed inside the battery, giving the car a potentially longer range. Apple is also examining a chemistry for the battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, the person said, which is inherently less likely to overheat and is thus safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries.
‘It’s next level,’ the [source] said of Apple’s battery technology. ‘Like the first time you saw the iPhone.'”
It’s a Complicated Process
Launching a brand new product line isn’t just risky – it’s expensive. Even tech giant Tesla took 17 years to turn a consistent profit. But if any company can cushion the cost and lean on resources that already exist to create an unlikely new venture, it’s probably Apple.
It’s unclear where production of the car parts will occur, but reports suggest that Apple plans to contract with third-party manufacturing companies. It makes sense for the strictly-tech company to allow a more traditional automotive company create the body of the vehicle, and use Apple for the brains, but it remains to be seen if that’s what they do or if they go ground-up on their vehicles. Per Reuters, “Apple has decided to tap outside partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road, two people familiar with the company’s plans said.
Apple’s car might feature multiple lidar sensors for scanning different distances, another person said. Some sensors could be derived from Apple’s internally developed lidar units, that person said. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models released this year both feature lidar sensors.”
It’s also a possibility that Apple will scale back its grand dream and opt to simply sell software for a driver-less vehicle, rather than forge ahead with either it’s own ground-up vehicle or body-brain Frankenstein partnership.
Fans and Shareholders are a Little Skeptical
If you’re a little confused that Apple wants to create cars, you’re not alone. Diehard Apple tech fans and shareholders alike are scratching their heads. However, that hasn’t been reflected in the stock market, where Apple shares ended 1.24% higher after news circulated about the upcoming car. It appears that people still have faith in Apple, even if the process is a little bizarre.
Per Reuters, Hal Eddins, chief economist at Apple shareholder Capital Investment Counsel, is a little confused; “‘My initial reaction as a shareholder is, huh?’ Eddins said. ‘Still don’t really see the appeal of the car business, but Apple may be eyeing another angle than what I’m seeing.'”
The timeline on the Apple car remains a mystery. While the Reuters report suggests it could be ready by 2024, some tech outlets have suggested it could be as soon as 2021. And sources close to the project caution that pandemic-related delays could push the release into 2025.
So when will people be able to strap on an Apple Watch, put Spotify on an Apple phone, and hop in their Apple car for a drive to the Apple store? Hard to say. But, if the project forges ahead as planned, it will be within 5 years.