South Korean automotive manufacturer Hyundai Motor is reportedly planning to sign a partnership deal with American technology megalith Apple that would see the two companies launch an autonomous electric vehicle this decade, with production starting around 2024.
Hyundai Motor’s value surged by 28% last Friday on the back of a report from local media outlet The Korea Economic Daily which claimed that the company was in early talks with Apple to launch a self-driving electric vehicle in 2027.
In response, Hyundai issued a statement saying that “Apple and Hyundai are in discussion, but as it is early stage, nothing has been decided.”
However, a subsequent statement to the stock exchange from Hyundai omitted this subtle acknowledgement, explaining instead that there had been “requests for cooperation on joint development of autonomous electric vehicles from various companies”.
A follow-up report from Korea IT News furthered speculation, claiming that the two companies were in talks to sign a partnership deal on autonomous electric vehicles by March, which could lead to the start of production around 2024 in the United States.
Hyundai Motor’s declined to comment further, reiterating requests for comment to its comments on Friday that it had received requests for potential cooperation from various companies.
Unsurprisingly, Apple had no immediate comment.
The Korea IT News report was apparently updated to remove specific details – including production location, capacity, and the timeframe for signing the agreement and launching pilot vehicles.
The previous version reportedly claimed that the intended autonomous electric vehicle would be built at Kia Motors’ factory in Georgia, US, or that the two companies would jointly invest in a new factory. Production capacity was reported to be set at 100,000 vehicles around 2024, with a total annual capacity of the proposed plant scaling up to 400,000 vehicles.
Importantly, the original report suggested that Hyundai and Apple planned to release a “beta version” of its autonomous EV next year.
The news comes only a few weeks after Reuters reported exclusively that Apple was moving forward with self-driving car technology and was targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include the company’s own breakthrough battery technology.
The report, quoting “people familiar with the matter” speaking to Reuters, claimed that Apple’s “Project Titan” had progressed enough that the company was now aiming at launching a vehicle in the near-term, while “a third person” claimed that Apple’s strategy centres on its new battery design which the company believes could “radically” reduce the cost of batteries while also increasing the vehicle’s range.
If all of this proves to be true it could be a market-defining move by Apple, which as an outside player has the deep pockets necessary to shake up the current Tesla-dominated EV market, as well as the scaling-up work of traditional automotive manufacturers.
Joshua S. Hill is a Melbourne-based journalist who has been writing about climate change, clean technology, and electric vehicles for over 15 years. He has been reporting on electric vehicles and clean technologies for Renew Economy and The Driven since 2012. His preferred mode of transport is his feet.