Apple continues to make inquiries and inroads into the auto business, this time engaging in discussions about building charging stations around the country, according to a new report by Reuters. Apple is believed to be developing its own electric vehicle, which reportedly could enter production by 2020. Despite the wide presumption that Apple is entering the car business, the company has not released any details about what it is pursuing.
Apple is discussing charging stations with many companies and the reason for this is simple: if there is an Apple Car, then there will need to be places for the car to charge. Apple may be aiming for something similar to the network of Supercharger partners that Tesla continues to build worldwide for its slate of electric cars. According to the source who spoke to Reuters, the charging firms are uncertain and have been non-committal about Apple. Charging companies are trying to determine if Apple will be a partner or a rival.
Tesla’s model relies on its own proprietary technology. It is not known whether Apple would also demand the charging stations use proprietary Apple technology, or whether the company would make its system compatible with what other electric market cars are using. The report says a “global engineering and construction firm” has already reached out to Apple. However, it is not clear whether Apple wants to work with another business. “It would be natural to assume if Apple is going to have a full battery electric vehicle that creates a seamless consumer experience the way Apple does, the charging infrastructure and its availability would be of paramount importance,” the source told Reuters.
Like Tesla, Apple has been hiring talent who can develop technologies for electric cars. As Reuters points out, Apple has been hiring people who have expertise in wireless charging for electric vehicles, along with those building wired electrical charging stations.
Due to the growth of electric vehicles on the roads, EV automakers need to expand their charging stations to accommodate more cars. Tesla leads the pack, with about 600 charging stations around the world. This is still woefully less that what will be needed once its almost 400,000 Model 3 cars hit the road during the next three years.
Apple is surprisingly on track to spend more on research and development than ever before, spending $10 billion on R&D. Analysts believe this is a clear signal that Apple is moving full steam ahead with its Apple Car plans. One such analyst, Neil Cybart, said the odds of Apple releasing an electric car are at a minimum o f80 percent.
“Apple is not spending $10 billion on R&D just to come up with new Watch bands, larger iPads, or a video streaming service,” said Cybart. “Instead, Apple is planning on something much bigger: a pivot into the automobile industry.”
Apple’s plans apparently include buying huge tracts of land in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the company is looking to expand their R&D. Although the prospect of an Apple Car is enticing, the company will face huge obstacles to entry in the EV market. Who will manufacture the car? Will it be compatible with other charging stations? How will Apple be able to manufacture large numbers of the cars without a partner in the auto industry? It remains to be seen whether Apple will adopt the Tesla approach, which involves scaling a huge manufacturing site, or whether their plans will be more discrete.