iPhone-maker Apple has not yet gone public with plans for Project Titan — its own self-driving passenger car — but insiders say production could begin as soon as 2024 on a vehicle for the mass market, Reuters reported.
A new battery design that could “radically” cut costs and increase the distance the car can drive is key to Apple’s strategy, according to a person who has seen Apple’s battery design.
Apple plans to use a unique “monocell” design that bulks up the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials, a source told Reuters.
This design means that more active material can be packed inside the battery, allowing the car to potentially travel greater distances.
Electric cars have a shorter range than gas-powered cars and are usually more expensive. Recharging the battery is time-consuming, and it can sometimes be hard to find a charging station, according to Car and Driver.
The Tesla model with the longest range is the Model S Long Range Plus, which can cover 402 miles. It takes anywhere from 10.2 hours to 5.4 days to fully charge a battery that is completely empty on a Model S Long Range.
Apple is examining chemistry for the battery called lithium iron phosphate (LIP) which is less likely to overheat and therefore safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries, a source told Reuters.
“It’s next level,” according to a person who worked on Project Titan, “like the first time you saw the iPhone.”
Earlier reports indicated that Apple would likely focus on developing a self-driving system and then work with another auto manufacturer to assemble the system. The recent report, however, says that Apple is planning an Apple-branded car, according to 9to5Mac.
Rumors about Project Titan rumors have circulated for years, and the project appears to be continuously evolving in scope. Bloomberg reported recently that Apple has put John Giannandrea, its senior vice president of machine learning and AI strategy, in charge of the project.
It took Elon Musk 17 years to make Tesla profitable at making cars. Apple, now a $2 trillion company, has a market value that’s higher than the GDP of numerous developed countries including Brazil, Canada, Italy, Russia and South Korea.
But making a vehicle represents a supply chain challenge even for Apple, which makes hundreds of millions of electronics products each year with parts from around the world, but has never made a car.
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“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,” a person who worked on Project Titan told Reuters.
Reuters previously reported that Apple had been in talks with potential lidar suppliers, but it was also examining building its own sensor. Lidar sensors help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road.
Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models released this year both feature lidar sensors. Apple’s car might feature multiple lidar sensors for scanning different distances. Some sensors could be derived from Apple’s internally developed lidar units, Reuters reported.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has described lidar as a “fool’s errand,” according to 9to5Mac.
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