The secret to the Apple Car is the battery?

“To be sure, Apple could make a beautifully designed vehicle that handles well enough to make a car enthusiast’s heart skip a beat. The company’s head of design, Jony Ive, is a self-professed car lover, and he’s been responsible for the look and feel of Apple’s most iconic devices. Eddy Cue, Apple’s head of Internet software and services, is on the board of Ferrari, so he’s surely been thinking about the best way to integrate Apple software in a car,” Katie Benner opines for Bloomberg View. “But if Apple’s goal is to make an electric car that disrupts the auto industry like the iPhone disrupted smartphones, then the tech that matters the most is the battery. And car battery tech has thwarted many other companies. Building a better battery is a tough chemistry conundrum, not the sort of electronics problem that tech companies are used to solving.”

“The secret to an electric car that will take off with consumers is to make an affordable, long-lasting battery. The products currently on the market just don’t cut it, as evidenced by the small sales numbers for electric vehicles and by the fact that Tesla’s own battery sales have always been low,” Benner writes. “That brings me back to Apple. If it can’t solve the battery conundrum, it will likely make a luxury automobile that has a niche, rich audience. (Tesla hopes to sell 55,000 cars worldwide in 2015. By contrast General Motors sold more than 274,000 vehicles in the U.S. in December alone.) That’s not necessarily a bad thing. At the right price point, a car could help Apple maintain its status as a high-margin, super-profitable manufacturer.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Chemistry and physics have laws that can’t be broken regardless of the amount of blathering devoted to wishes, hopes, and dreams. What if the secret to the “Apple Car” isn’t the battery, but the fuel cell?

Related articles:
Apple Car: Forget ‘electric,’ think hydrogen fuel cells – February 20, 2015
Apple working with Intelligent Energy on fuel cell technology for mobile devices, sources say – July 14, 2014
North Carolina regulators approve Apple’s 4.8-megawatt fuel cell facility at Maiden data center – May 23, 2012
New aerial images of Apple’s planned NC fuel cell, solar farms published – April 7, 2012
Apple’s massive fuel cell energy project to be largest in the U.S. – April 4, 2012
Apple patent application reveals next-gen fuel cell powered Macs and iOS devices – December 22, 2011
Apple patent app details highly-advanced hydrogen fuel cells to power portable devices – October 20, 2011

26 Comments

  1. Yes, I’m sure if Apple developed some amazing new battery technology they would completely ignore their existing products (products that would benefit massively from improved battery capacity and blow other products completely out of the water if included) and use it only in an entirely new product unrelated to anything they have experience in at all.

    1. Of course new battery tech should find its way into all other Apple products, and Apple has just the big bucks needed to invest in the R&D necessary to pull it off, but pray that it is not fuel cells. While they may be fine for converting natural gas into electricity to run a large building as has already been demonstrated, they would be horrible choice for cars, limiting their range to a certain radius of the local recharge station. Ultra capacitor tech such as barium titanate or carbon nano-fibers, which only need access to electricity for charging anywhere multiplies recharge stations by the millions and would be far better. Electric motors run four hundreds and even thousands of times longer than combustion engines before repairs are needed, and then are far easier and simpler to repair. Apple must surely know that electric engines and battery tech is the only way to go for a revolution they are discussing. I do not believe that Apple would even begin to make a move in this direction if they did not already have an ace up their sleeve with regard to battery technology. If they really have solved this or are about too, then get ready for a multi-trillion dollar company. They have no where to go but up.

  2. “Apple could make a beautifully designed vehicle”

    There’s another reason not to expect an Apple car. Pre-Apple:
    – cell phones were crap
    – light portable computers were crap
    – music players were crap
    – tablets were crap
    So Apple came and transformed the industry, and showed everyone how to do it.

    There are many beautifully designed and well made cars in the world.

    “What about the watch?”, you may say.
    Apple isn’t making a watch. They’re putting a portable computer on people’s wrists. Such a complete transformation to a new paradigm isn’t possible with cars. An Apple car would still be a car.

    1. “What about the car?” you may ask.

      Apple isn’t making a car (gasoline, hybrid, electric, or diesel). Apple is making a fuel cell-powered vehicle. Your own words prove the opposite of what you intend to prove.

      I believe that Apple has made fuel cell breakthroughs. Apple Cars will emit only water and Apple will own the world. An Apple Car, powered by patented fuel cell technology and designed by Jony Ive and Marc Newson, would transform the world.

      1. Sorry, but their is a fault in your logic where you said “Apple Cars will emit only water.”

        The total fuel cycle from source to care involves an original energy source and today that is the commercial electrical grid powered by coal and natural gas and less by nuclear power.

        Fuel cells are effectively, just a different form of a battery as are super capacitors. Unfortunately, we don’t have a production/distribution system in place for hydrogen gas and no it can not be liquified in any economical sense.

        If Apple has made fuel cell breakthroughs, you will see Patent Applications in public view on http://www.USPTO.gov eighteen months after they have filed patents.

        Apple would still have to license or buy other technologies to make a practical battery, so a single set of patents isn’t enough by itself.

      2. … and I bet they will work amazingly … at least around their new mega campus well in range of a top up at the hydro pump. UnlessApple has invented a solar based cheap method of producing Hydrogen (practically) on site then the car won’t have the infrastructure Apple is so attached to to transform the World … outside of a California backyard anyway. One can hope they know something we don’t.

  3. The article is so filled with false comparisons that it defies being called reporting or analysis. Tesla may have sold only 55,000 cars last year, but they were production limited. There is a 6 month waiting list for cars that routinely list out at $100K with options. They are prohibited from selling in several states up to and including being prohibited from even putting cars on display in some. So let’s shackle a company and tie on some weights and say “They don’t swim to well.”

    Tesla has laid down the gauntlet, including free use of all of their patents and giving away free electricity to charge their cars. So far the olden auto industry hasn’t shown up at the plate in any significant manner. The demand is there. When Tesla builds capacity to address the volume required to serve the down market segments it will be game over for any olden auto makers not in the market with a viable offering, including free electricity.

    If I were Apple, I would not be trying to go head-to-head with Tesla in the high end. I would be designing the killer product for the next slice of the pie, the $25K to $40K and contracting with Tesla to build that car, using Tesla modular battery packs and being part of the Tesla infrastructure. Designed by Apple, Built by Tesla, All in California.

    1. Yes, totally correct, the $2000 extra charge on the Tesla is for the free electricity from the superchargers. It’s optional on the MS60. If you don’t pay it then the electricity is even more freer because you can’t even charge at a supercharger. It’s like twice as free.

      1. $1000 for unique charging hardware and $1000 to calibrate your charging system. If you choose not to buy the hardware, where is the beef? I can see some early customers deciding their use profile wouldn’t be helped by the network, but now the SuperChargers are starting to be ubiquitous. $2K represents a 3% premium on the least costly Tesla Model S. Any ICE car owner spends 30% or more of their TCO on fuel. $2K for the ability to access free fuel seems pretty sweet to me.

  4. Apple could provide battery tech and the know how to make all the interfaces in a car work beautifully for the end user without taking on the liability of making a car.

    To me this makes more sense than a full car. Cars are neat but man its an industry were a mistake can come back to bite you in the ass for hundreds of millions of dollars 10 years down the road.

    If Apple can make a mint in the industry and avoid that liability it could be a good move.

  5. The batteries are made out of special sapphire and some LiquidMetal (probably some graphene too) components that are being produced in a huge (solar powered) abandoned warehouse in Nevada. What could go wrong?

  6. A good battery is important, but not the “secret” for an Apple car. This author assumes Apple will create a “plug-in” electric car does not have an on-board method of generating electricity. The better assumption is that Apple will create an electric car design that can accommodate different on-board methods to re-charge its battery, as part of its customer-selected configuration. The “Apple Car” remains the same.

    For example, its “power module” can be a small efficient fossil fuel engine plus fuel tank. Or it can be a hydrogen fuel cell. Or it can be some new tech for generating electrical power. And for a pure plug-in electric car, that same space can be occupied by a secondary battery to extend range.

    Even if the Apple car carries the means for recharging its main battery, it certainly helps to have some revolutionary battery tech. But the battery would NOT be the “secret” ingredient that makes the Apple car possible.

  7. My bet is that Apple isn’t building a car, but making the AppleTV of the automotive world. Imagine instead of having the BestBuy folks install a new HD or Satellite radio, they install an AppleAuto, all the features of an iOS device (audio/video/internet/apps), plus driverless capability, multiple dash cam options, etc, all for under $1000 installed.

  8. The battery problem has already taken a leap forward. The Sb-Pb originally called liquid metal. We all know the naming problem. It was created at MIT. It solves a lot of problems with Li-ion especially cost. There is a lot about it, TED.com is a good place to start.

    Electric cars or at the same place gasoline cars were about 100 years ago.rich man toys. That’s not a bad thing, there must be early adopters. What we need now is a truck. The F1 50 is America’s best selling vehicle, for a reason. It’s practical. When somebody comes out with an electric truck then the industry will really take off.

    1. When NASCAR is racing electric vehicles around Daytona at 200 MPH then we’ll see some real innovation.

      Can’t you just imagine a crew jumping over the wall to change the batteries and tires 5 or 6 times during the race?

  9. do you really think Apple has to focus on the car itself to succeed?
    Of course if they’ll deliver a car, it will have some innovation, but I guess that’ll be just a scratch on the surface.
    Apple is focused on UX (user experience), and the car industry is broken at many levels regarding UX.
    The distribution model sucks, the service is a pain in the ass, etc…
    I think if we only look at the car, we’re looking at the finger while Apple is pointing at the moon.

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