The Cupertino, California-based company has been on a hiring spree attracting key members of rival car manufacturers’ electric and new vehicle system teams.
The majority of the new Apple employees come from Ford, Tesla and battery technology company A123 Systems, which this month sued Apple for poaching its top engineers. A123 System’s lawsuit alleges Apple began an “aggressive campaign” to poach engineers not just from A123, but also from other battery manufacturers including LG Chem, Samsung, Panasonic, Toshiba and Johnson Controls.
A report from Bloomberg indicates that Apple is targeting an electric car for release as early as 2020. Vehicles typically take seven years to develop.
Most manufacturers base new models on common structures and components shared with other vehicles in their ranges to reduce cost and development time, meaning vehicles that look very different on the outside could be very similar on the inside. Apple will not have that immediate luxury unless the company partners with another manufacturer.
Apple declined to comment.
Elon Musk’s Tesla has shown that electric vehicles are viable for a business with its Roadster and then Model S, which recently gained a faster dual-motor version with an “insane mode” which reaches 60 miles per hour in under 3.2 seconds.
The electric car company is planning to release a new Model 3, which will cost under $35,000 in the US with a range of at least 200 miles per charge. Tesla’s larger Model S has a range of over 300 miles.
Musk has stated that Apple has been attempting to hire Tesla employees offering them $250,000 signing bonuses and 60% salary increases.
A Wall Street Journal report indicated that Apple was working on a minivan-like vehicle codenamed “Titan”. A minivan leased to Apple modified with cameras and sensors required for mapping technologies similar to Google’s Street View, as well as self-driving cars, was spotted driving around New York and the San Francisco Bay area.
Apple is under increasing scrutiny for further breakthrough products following is success with the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Apple’s smartwatch is expected to be the next big thing for the company when it launches in April, but within five years the pressure could be back on for another hit.
The electric car industry is currently in a similar state to the smartphone industry before Apple’s introduction of the first iPhone in 2007. Apple has a history of success launching products that although aren’t the first on the market, concentrate on a clearly defined and heavily controlled user experience.
Whether the company is capable of doing the same thing for the electric car, solving key pain points around current implementations including range and charging times, is less clear.
Tesla and Musk are working on precisely that type of market disruption, and have been since 2003. The company has had success with the current Model S, which has seen improvements rolled out with software updates since its launch, adding miles to its range and new user-requested features – a first for the car industry.
Should Apple proceed with delivery of an electric car, it will require large scale investment, not only in engineering talent and development, but in manufacturing technology, distribution and support infrastructure on a grander scale than its current network of Apple stores deliver.
This article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Friday 20th February 2015 12.59 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010