Apple will develop its own self-driving technology, with a view to putting an electric car with “breakthrough” battery technology on the market by 2024, it has been reported.
The news, from a Reuters story citing several unidentified sources, raises again the oft-times rumoured “Project Titan” that has been in and out of the news for some years now.
As far back as 2015 the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple would ship an electric car in 2019, however the project has reportedly progressed unevenly. An Apple-made and designed electric car was put on hold and Doug Field, an ex-Tesla employee and Apple veteran returned to oversee the project in 2018.
A crash in 2018 involving a Lexus driving with Apple self-driving apparatus – which was ironically rear-ended by an electric Nissan Leaf – confirmed that Apple was working on autonomous technology. Since then further updates on Apple’s project have been thin on the ground.
This time around, it appears the reports are more substantial.
Reuters reports that “two people familiar with the effort said, asking not to be named because Apple’s plans are not public” that Apple’s project has now progressed to the point it will build its own electric car, with autonomous driving technology that would take on the likes of Tesla’s FSD (Full Self-Driving) and Google’s Waymo.
Importantly, the reports make mention of a “radically” new battery design that would reduce the cost of batteries as well as increase driving range, according to someone who says they have seen Apple’s battery design.
The person who spoke with Reuters said Apple is looking at using lithium iron phosphate (LFP) chemistry – the type of battery currently used in Tesla’s China-made Model 3.
This is not only cheaper to make than the typical nickel-manganese-aluminium (NCA) chemistry of today’s lithium-ion batteries, but is also less likely to overheat.
“It’s next level,” the person was quoted as saying of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time you saw the iPhone.”
Who will make the Apple car is less clear. Reuters reports that Magna International – which has just inked a deal to make the Fisker Ocean in Europe – has previously explored a partnership with Apple but this fell through after Apple’s plans became unclear, a person familiar with those previous efforts told Reuters.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.