Apple is aiming to begin production on an Apple-branded self-driving vehicle starting in 2024, according to a new report shared today by Reuters.
Apple has been working on some kind of car project since 2014, and there was a point when it seemed like the company’s efforts could be scaled back to autonomous vehicle software, but after
several management changes and shifts in hiring, Apple’s work on a car has progressed and the company now feels that it is able to build a vehicle for consumers.
Unnamed sources told Reuters that Apple is developing a new battery design that has the potential to “radically” reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range.
Apple is building a “monocell” design that will bulk up the individual battery cells and free up space inside the battery pack by removing pouches and modules that hold battery materials. This will allow for more active material in a smaller package.
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.
One person who spoke to Reuters described Apple’s battery technology as “next level” and said that it’s similar to “the first time you saw the iPhone.”
Apple will need to tap into a whole new supply chain to produce a car. Apple is said to be planning to rely on a manufacturing partner to build the vehicles. Apple is working with outside partners for car components, such as LiDAR sensors.
The Apple Car could feature multiple LiDAR sensors for scanning different distances, and some of those could be created from Apple’s internally developed LiDAR units.
Apple was in talks with Magna International about manufacturing a car, but the talks ended when Apple’s plans became unclear. To enter into a contract, Apple may need to commit to high volume sales, as many as 100,000 vehicles annually.
There are years to go before Apple begins production on an Apple Car, and Reuters warns that the company could still choose to scale back the project and reduce the scope of its efforts to an autonomous driving system that would be integrated into a car made by a traditional automaker. Delays caused by the ongoing global health crisis could also push production to 2025 or beyond.