Weighing Apple’s Chances in the Electric Car Market

Recent hires from Tesla, Porsche, and now BMW point towards an electrifying future.

Automotive
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If you’ve got an Apple iPhone, you’ve probably been told that it’s sensible to invest in an iPad, AirPods, a MacBook, AirTags, or anything else the tech monolith has put its name to. Now, thanks to a number of strategic business hires, it seems that Apple wants to replace your car, too. 

In January 2021, rumors began circulating that Hyundai and Apple were in talks regarding a possible venture of creating an electric car together. Some time after that, news stirred again implying that the two had almost completed their deal — but again, nothing concrete followed. Then, in April, Tim Cookdropped hints” that Apple could release a car in the future. In an interview with Kara Swisher for The New York Times’ “Sway” podcast, Cook said: “In terms of the work that we’re doing there, obviously, I’m going to be a little coy on that… The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view… If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.”

We’ll “see what Apple does” indeed. For now, there’s very little to base anything other than speculation on regarding an Apple electric car. However, below is what we know so far, what could happen in the near future — and whether Apple stands a chance in this already saturated industry. 

As 9to5mac reports, Apple has hired Porsche’s VP of chassis development to join its “Project Titan” (the assumed code name for “we’re making a car”) team. It also hired ex-Tesla talent — although talent is a word Elon Musk probably wouldn’t use, after saying in 2015 that “[Apple] have hired people we’ve fired. We always jokingly call Apple the ‘Tesla Graveyard.’ If you don’t make it at Tesla, you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.”

Now, Apple has hired the former BMW executive Ulrich Kranz to also join “Project Titan.” Kranz worked at BMW for over 30 years, and during that time he led teams that developed the BMW i3 and i8 — its first all-electric cars. Working with Tesla (namely Doug Field of Tesla Model 3 fame) minds at Apple under its EV project, it seems there’s good ground to start building a car on — or at least to continue developing the program that’s existed since 2014.

But how feasible is it for Apple to actually make a car? And not just make it, but to actually market, and sell, its electric rival? When one Twitter-using, self-proclaimed tech enthusiast stated “Everyone gonna make cars” in May this year, Musk noted, “Prototypes are easy, production is hard.”

Sure, Apple has the money — and arguably the means thanks to all of its hires – but would you buy an Apple car? As the company’s first iteration of the iPhone proved, it can take Apple a few attempts to really get it right. 

In December 2020, Reuters reported that Apple had “breakthrough battery technology,” and, as HYPEBEAST noted, it “radically” lowers the cost of batteries, all while increasing the vehicle’s range. Again, Musk disputed these claims (on Twitter, of course), saying: “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?”

This sounds like one part petty competitiveness, one part hard facts of life. Regardless, Apple has spent about seven years working on “Project Titan” with very little hard evidence pointing towards some kind of four-wheeled, self-driving result. 

If we do see an Apple car in the near future, we expect it to be rather quiet in its design approach — clean, simple lines, following a design language followed by Apple’s product range and the electric car industry as a whole. By that time, we expect batteries and range to have developed further meaning it might be a more practical EV, but in true Apple form it’ll also be expensive — as are most new cars from new manufacturers. 

Self-driving cars are still a way-off (if Tesla’s words are anything to go by), and even if Apple does get into the electric car market, does Apple have the power to stray us away from Tesla, BMW, Ford, MINI, and almost every other marque that’s releasing electrified versions of their tried-and-tested cars? Perhaps a few more well-considered hires, a huge injection of cash, and ten years of technological development could change everything.

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