APPLE will launch its long-talked-about electric car by 2024, according to new reports, and it will come with the kind of technological innovation expected of new Apple products.
The company’s passenger vehicle, which is referred to internally as “Project Titan”, will contain a battery design that could “radically” reduce the cost of the units while simultaneously increasing their range, it is claimed.
An electric car’s battery is its most expensive component, currently accounting for around 30% of its final price tag. That’s down from more than 50% five years ago.
The Apple car’s battery is expected to take a “monocell” structure that would free up space within the battery for active components, in doing so enabling a greater range. Apple is also reportedly assessing the feasibility of using a lithium iron phosphate battery, which it believes would be less prone to overheating than the lithium-ion units currently favoured by car makers.
“It’s next level,” one anonymous source familiar with the project told Reuters. “Like the first time you saw the iPhone.”
It is also possible that the car’s autonomous driving system could feature the same Lidar sensors that feature on the recently released iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro.
Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors are used on self-driving vehicles to create a 3D model of the environment around the car. They are traditionally perched atop a self-driving vehicle and are one of their most recognisable features.
Little else is known about the vehicle, but Car magazine quoted an EV community insider as describing Apple’s automotive debut as a “Model 3 fighter”. The Tesla Model 3 is the entry level model from Elon Musk’s American car maker, which disrupted the car market and has accelerated the transition to electric vehicles.
Prices for the Model 3 begin at £40,490 for the 267-mile-range Standard Range Plus model, while for an extra £6,000 you can buy the Long Range Plus version, which comes with four-wheel drive and 360 miles of range.
One of the executives leading Apple’s Project Titan team is Doug Field, who worked at Tesla for five years.
The magazine also said that, instead of attempting to launch its car immediately with full self-driving capability, Apple will introduce its car with Level 3 autonomy, which means the car can accelerate, brake and steer itself but requires the driver to be ready to take over control of the vehicle at any time.
More outlandish predictions for the Apple car include a “monochrome chameleon exterior” that can change colour.
Today’s news represents the largest announcement regarding Apple car project since it was revealed last year that Field had laid off 190 people from the team. Reports emerged in 2017 that Apple had decided to move Project Titan to the backburner in order to prioritise its software projects.
The vehicle project was first launched in 2014, with a team of around 1,000 people assigned to it.
The news that Apple’s Project Titan will result in passenger cars that can be bought and owned differentiates it from some of its competitors working on autonomous vehicles. Waymo, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet, has instead set its sights on a self-driving taxi service, as has the self-driving project recently sold by Uber to Aurora Innovation, a small startup.