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Possible Apple EV back in the limelight

iPhone company rumored to be revisiting electric auto world Metal Tech News – December 30, 2020

Word on the street, Apple is moving forward with its own line of electric vehicles and according to them, its "like the first time you saw the iPhone", the company hopes to have production up and driving by 2024.

The tech company's automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, has been an open secret in the auto and tech world since its inception in 2014 and yet, progress has been haphazard at best, which included a layoff of nearly 200 people from the project's team in 2019.

Now it seems the project is back on track and headed toward production by 2024 if the unnamed sources by Reuters' is proved correct – although they account for coronavirus delays and state it could be 2025 or possibly later.

Like most companies that plan to start large scale productions, especially one as massive as the vehicle industry, it remains unclear who would assemble an Apple brand car, but purportedly the company expects to rely on manufacturing partners to build its vehicles.

Allegedly, Apple had previously engaged Magna International Inc. in talks about manufacturing an EV, yet discussions are reported to have fallen through as Apple's plans became unclear. However, one of Apple's long-term manufacturing partners, Foxconn Technology Group, recently unveiled its own plans for an EV platform, yet no word has been heard of any differing collaboration.

After drawing back to focus on software and to reassess its goals, Apple brought on Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla Inc. to oversee the project in 2018.

Furthermore, the company pulled in experts and engineers from Porsche and other automakers, including Alexander Hitzinger, who recently left Apple to return to the VW Group to head the German automaker's Project Artemis.

While it is still unknown whether Apple will build the vehicle itself or look to partners for the actual manufacturing, one thing is certain, making a vehicle represents a supply chain challenge, and even for a company such as Apple.

Comparatively, it took Elon Musk 17 years before Tesla was finally capable of sustained profit in electric automaking. With an entirely different starting point from Tesla, however, Apple's road may prove less rocky in production to profit, if they get to the production point first that is.

Inside the Apple-mobile

Battery form and function are central to Apple's renewed plans to build an electric vehicle.

The battery Apple plans to use utilizes a unique "monocell" design that does away with pouches and modules and combines the individual cells in each battery. This could potentially yield more capacity within the same space as a traditional battery-pack layout, which could, ultimately, give the vehicle longer driving range.

Apple is also examining a different chemistry for the battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, which is inherently less likely to overheat and is thus safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries, further prolonging driving range.

"It's next level, like the first time you saw the iPhone," said an undisclosed source on Apple's battery technology, according to Reuter's.

As further unnamed sources claimed in the report given by Reuter's, the vehicle is aiming to be a personal, mass-market vehicle rather than a robo-taxi or commercial vehicle, with the goal of it being self-driving.

As the newly released iPhone and iPad feature Apple-developed lidar sensors in them, it has been speculated the future vehicle will also display said technology, further contributing to this fact, in a previous report given by Reuters, Apple has been in consultations with potential lidar suppliers, but also it was examining the potential of building its own sensor.

Speculations aside, to turn a profit, automotive contract manufacturers often ask for volumes that could even pose a challenge to a company with deep pockets like Apple, which would be a newcomer to the automotive market.

Annually, viable assembly plants require a minimum of 100,000 vehicles, with future volume to supply demand.

While this move has, in the micro-scale, shown a joyful blip for Apple stock – which ended 1.24% higher after the news last Monday – Apple shareholders are beginning to question the direction of the consumer technology company.

EV future caution

Some Apple investors reacted to the Reuters report on the company's plans with trepidation. Trip Miller, a managing partner at Apple investor Gullane Capital Partners, said it could be tough for Apple to produce large volumes of cars out of the gate.

"It would seem to me that if Apple develops some advanced operating system or battery technology, it would be best utilized in a partnership with an existing manufacturer under license," Miller said. "As we see with Tesla and the legacy auto companies, having a very complex manufacturing network around the globe doesn't happen overnight."

Yet with the ability to wield power in the manufacturing world thanks to the iPhone, Apple could potentially begin its production in a way no other automotive startups could be able to accomplish.

"If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it's probably Apple. But at the same time, it's not a cellphone," said a person who worked on Project Titan.

Hal Eddins, chief economist at Apple shareholder Capital Investment Counsel, said Apple has a history of higher margins than most automakers.

"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."

On the same day that Apple EV news gave a modest boost to the tech company's stock, Tesla shares moved 6.5% lower, a foreshadowing of the shuffle to prepare with any future EV reveal by the overwhelmingly popular consumer technology company.

That is to say, if the operation does not fall by the wayside once more.


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