The Apple Car may be up there with flying cars when it comes to automotive stories that capture the public's attention, no matter how implausible they may seem. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said the tech company is working on autonomous driving technology, not an actual car...but a new report from China seems liable to reignite Apple Car speculation. Local media are reporting that the Silicon Valley giant is working with battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd. (CATL) on batteries for electric cars, according to Electrek.
Apple is already a large consumer of batteries, so making a deal with a battery supplier isn't news in and of itself. But the report's claim that Apple is specifically interested in electric car batteries is a strong indication that the company might be thinking about building its own car.
A battery-supply deal is essential to launching an electric car. Only Tesla has tried to bring battery manufacturing in-house, but it still relies on Panasonic to provide funding and technical expertise for its massive Nevada "Gigafactory." Nissan and Daimler have battery-manufacturing subsidiaries, and the rest of the industry relies on wholly-independent suppliers.
Apple is no stranger to contracting out major components of its products. If it really does launch an electric car, batteries may not be the only things it outsources. It's generally easier to outsource development of electric-car components to suppliers (see LG's involvement with the Chevy Bolt EV), which is one reason why analysts view a company like Apple getting into the car business as a possibility.
Currently, CATL batteries are used mostly in electric buses. But the company does have a contract to supply batteries to National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which plans to launch an electric version of the Saab 9-3 in China.