The ‘Project Titan’ electric car (EV) tech giant Apple reportedly shelved after a couple of years of research and development is believed to be up and running again on the strength of a next-generation battery.
News agency Reuters and dedicated US website MacRumors report Apple has built a new battery packed with more energy-dense electrolyte for greater range.
The so-called ‘monocell’ design bulks up the individual battery cells and frees up space inside the battery pack by removing pouches and modules that hold battery materials. This will allow for more active materials in a smaller package.
A source said to be familiar with the new battery technology told Reuters: “It’s next level – like the first time you saw the iPhone.”
Both Reuters and MacRumors say Apple has been talking to carmakers, including South Korea’s Hyundai, about the development.
Apple had been in talks with Austria’s contract builder Magna International, which makes the G-Class 4×4 for Mercedes-Benz and the Supra/Z4 sports car for Toyota and BMW, but those talks fell through.
The so-called Titan project is apparently based on self-driving software, but is not an autonomous robo-taxi, like Google’s Waymo. Rather, like all of Apple’s products, the production model would be aimed at the everyday commuter.
The project is now under the leadership of Apple’s artificial intelligence (AI) chief John Giannandrea. Former Tesla engineer Doug Field is also involved. Reuters said Apple is aiming to launch the car by 2024, but MacRumors says it’s unlikely to appear before 2026-27.
MacRumors says Apple will rely on a manufacturing partner to build the vehicles. It has been suggested by US analysts that Apple buy into Ford to make use of the car company’s eight factories in the US alone. Ford of course is working on EVs of its own.
An all-American Apple/Ford partnership building EVs “might be the perfect way for Apple to capture some of the magic that’s made Tesla’s value climb like a SpaceX rocket,” said one analyst. Ford’s market value is caped at about US$36 billion. Apple Inc. has close to US$200 billion in cash in its bank accounts.
Apple began research and development of the Titan project in 2014. In 2017 it started testing self-driving vehicles on public roads near its headquarters (pictured at top) in Cupertino, California. The vehicles (pictured above) were SUVs, 2015 Lexus RX450h models leased from Hertz and equipped with cameras and sensors.
It was around that time that Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed, in a rare candid moment, the Titan project. “We’re focusing on autonomous systems. It’s a core technology that we view as very important. We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects. It’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.”