How Apple’s entry into the car market will change the industry

“The challenge that the old manufacturers are having is that they have to cannibalize the profits of their existing lines by making completely new vehicles from the ground up to compete,” Mike Barnard writes for Quora. “So they mostly won’t.”

“The future of cars is battery electric vehicles. That’s just a reality. There are a bunch of reasons for that but here are a few: Electricity from generation to wheel is a lot cheaper than any of the proposed intermediaries such as hydrogen fuel cell and air carbon capture + electrolysed hydrogen fake-gas or diesel,” Barnard writes. “The VW scandal is just making public what a lot of people already knew: it wasn’t possible to make gasoline or diesel engines significantly better in the compromise space between CO2 emissions, NOx and other pollutant emissions, mileage, performance and engine longevity. That road, amazing as it has been, has reached its end. Electric cars just outperform everything else. I ran across a video of a 1968 Mustang fastback conversion to electric that give it 1.94 seconds to 60 mph and a top speed of 174. ”

“So what’s going to happen to the car industry?” Barnard writes. “All of the majors will continue to deny the reality of the situation and continue to bet on cars with traditional frames, limited batteries, limited electric range and performance and with internal combustion engines continuing to do the heavy lifting. New competitors such as Tesla and Apple will kick the traditional cars to the curb in every way. More will enter as it becomes obvious to corporations outside of the automotive industry that a massive disruption is killing the traditional car companies and that they are incapable of responding to it.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, as we wrote back in March: “When Apple enters markets, it’s because they can bring something(s) so unique to the table that significant disruption is inevitable.”

When Apple looks at what categories to enter, we ask these kinds of questions: What are the primary technologies behind this? What do we bring? Can we make a significant contribution to society with this? If we can’t, and if we can’t own the key technologies, we don’t do it. That philosophy comes directly from [Steve Jobs] and it still very much permeates the place. I hope that it always will.Apple CEO Tim Cook, March 18, 2015

Analyst: Apple Car will cost an average of $55,000 – October 16, 2015
Apple speeds up electric-car efforts, aims for 2019 ‘ship date’ – September 21, 2015
Survey: 77% of hybrid or electric vehicle owners would likely buy an Apple Car – May 13, 2015
What to expect from the Apple Car: Disruption – August 31, 2015
Apple Car: Tesla engineer joins Apple’s ‘Project Titan’ vehicle effort – August 21, 2015
Apple Car development proceeds apace – July 27, 2015
Apple hires veteran Fiat Chrysler auto industry executive – July 20, 2015
What’s up with Carl Icahn’s sudden obsession with the Apple Car? – May 18, 2015
Survey: 77% of hybrid or electric vehicle owners would likely buy an Apple Car – May 13, 2015
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

[Attribution: Forbes. Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


          1. dijonaise, true, the analogies are all twisted.

            but if you were locked in a room where the oxygen were displaced by any other gas — CO2, CO, or even argon — you’d eventually croak too.

            climate science is enormously complex, but I suspect that the people of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, have a much more clear understanding of what happens when, for lack of a more precise term, atmospheric energy is released. When the planet gets hot, and the heating is uneven, then storms are the result. And they are getting bigger and more expensive with each passing year. Even the most greedy self-centered climate denialist has to worry about his second beach vacation home these days.

      1. althegeo,

        You are correct that CO2 is not a toxic gas. But no one said it was. You are missing the point about CO2. Where have you been?

        CO2 is harmful because it traps heat in the atmosphere — which is why it is called a “greenhouse gas” — not because it is a toxic pollutant. CO2 causes the atmosphere’s temperature to rise. Warm air can hold more water vapor (itself a greenhouse gas), which exacerbates atmospheric warming further. And ⅓ of atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by our oceans, which causes oceanic acidification. All contribute to adverse changes on the planet’s ecosystems: planetary warming, global climate change, species stress & extinctions, extreme weather events, etc.

        1. In addition to producing CO2, burning carbon fuels also produces other emissions that are definitely toxic pollutants, including: nitrous oxides (NO and NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur oxides, and other bad stuff. But these emissions are relatively minor compare with the impact of CO2 on the planet.

  1. At the end of the day, gasoline still beats batteries by the most important criterion for a vehicle: power density.

    I’d buy an Apple hybrid. An all-electric? Probably not.


    1. The Prius hybrid-electric car was sold in the US in 2001. The Tesla pure EV was sold in the US in 2010. Today, there are more than 20 EV models on the market, including hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and pure EVs. The basic technology is here and will only get better in time. The improvements are coming fast, particularly with respect to battery and charging technologies. And car software will also help.

      Hybrid EVs are better than combustion engine vehicles; the Prius hybrid gets about 50 mpg. Plug-in hybrids are better than hybrids; the Plug-In Prius Hybrid is reported to get about 98 mpg. But pure EVs will trump hybrids and plug-in hybrids once EVs achieve a driving range of 300 to 500 miles. At that point, the combustion engine component of a hybrid system will become unnecessary.

      Yes, gasoline is a dense store of energy. But burning gasoline still produces carbon dioxide (CO2), and quite a lot of it, too.

      Electric and combustion power are substitutes. As EV technology advances, traditional combustion cars will become obsolete. Zero CO2 productions is the ultimate goal.

    2. I have friends who recently purchased a Tesla. While it’s a rocket ship of acceleration and very cool high tech, they still drive from one charging station to another. Keeping the battery topped off is always foremost on their minds when they’re out and about.

      Even though they got the model with ~250 miles range, that means they can never go more than 125 miles away without charging up, just in case they have to turn around to get back to a known charging station. It’s especially important to keep charged up I f they need to go somewhere in an emergency.

      Fortunately, Tesla is very aware of this range anxiety issue and is actively installing charging stations along major highways, and even letting their customers charge up for free, at least for now.

      This is something Apple will have to consider if they decide to get into this business. It is convenient for them to see just how Tesla is dealing with these electric vehicle issues, if they are planning their own product.

      1. Tesla opted to build elite sports cars and sell them for a lot of money. It really had little choice. It is ramping up production from scratch and has high overheads and small production volume. But hopefully in time Tesla will mass produce a popular “people’s car” with a long driving range and more affordable price.

        Acceleration takes power, which requires energy. More energy for acceleration means less energy available for cruising. Therefore, driving range suffers …unless the car compensates with a huge fuel tank (or battery).

        In good driving conditions a Prius can cruise for over 500 miles between fill-ups, even with a gas tank that is barely 12 gallons. A heavier, faster sports car might travel just 300 miles, even with a much bigger gas tank, before needing to refuel. The same goes for EVs.

        If it wanted to, I am sure Tesla could design and produce cars with better driving range, but they would not be sports cars.

        Personally, I think Apple is better suited to the task. It does fabulous design, does not balk at the hard work to create great new stuff, and is passionate about the environment.

  2. What are the key car technologies Apple can own?

    Electric motors? I doubt they can have anything unique. Mechanics (suspension, heating, cooling, seating, etc.)? I also don’t think these are candidates for unique Apple ownership.

    Things they could own:

    1. Much better battery technology
    2. Much better fuel cell technology
    3. Much better software including voice/gesture control, automated/independent driving and entertainment systems
    4. Materials and techniques for interior and exterior finish
    5. Much better solar technology (see exterior finish)

    To be really disruptive, Apple would have to incorporate most if not all of these into their automotive project(s), as well as some I’ve not thought of or aren’t known outside of Apple.

  3. That is an excellent analysis of why the traditional car companies can’t/won’t do electric cars, yet he evens forgets to mention that the best future cars (electric or otherwise) will need an awesome UI and OS. Everyone but Apple will have to scrounge around the junkyard to find an comprehensive, modern OS with a mammoth, modern ecosystem.
    He also forgets that Apple is one of the few companies in the universe which has the capital to even dream of starting a new car company.

  4. What could possibly happen that Apple inc. could turn this industry on its head?:
    1) The VW diesel scandal
    2) the disinterest teens show towards car ownership
    3) the mobile App universe offering cheap and convenient services such as Uber

    … all provide the ingredients for Apple inc. to turn the “trusty and crusty auto industry” on its head!

  5. Won’t buy an Apple electric car, sorry Apple.

    Good for city driving, even Bay Area commutes, bad for visits to places a day or more away. Would NEVER take it into a lot of my favorite hiking places. They are not off-road, just desolate.

    But an Apple Car will leapfrog anybody else who would get my attention.

  6. I reckon these issues get to the meat of what will happen and why:

    1) The viability of electric cars relies upon high battery energy density, good battery management softare and swift recharging. Tick tick tick for Apple. [Although it’s not out of the question they could use some of the new whizzy fuel cell stuff that’s now coming out of various R&D centres . . . not that that changes things much in terms of my main point.]

    2) The future of motoring full-stop will increasingly rely on good software, for both the automotive elements and user-interface. Tick for Apple.

    3) To break into the market a newcomer will need a *lot* of cash to burn before profitability kicks in (not just in terms of R&D and sales, but also the logistics of showrooms and recharging and so on). Tick for Apple.

    4) Jony Ives loves cars and this will give him the kind of new challenge that will keep him motivated, and hence employed, at Apple. Massive tick (but mainly for Apple itself, rather than electric cars). [He also loves watches, so we’ve seen how that turned out so far.]

    Unlike many, I don’t want Apple to buy Tesla or similar. I want *two* innovatie companies going at it to drive (titter) things along. As a Brit, I’ve been moaning for years that Europe seemed to be betting on diesel for the future, when it was always going to be a stop-gap. Electric powertrains can’t get here fast enough, as far as I’m concerned. And if Apple can pull that off, more power to them.

  7. Until Tesla or anyone else can meet or beat traditional combustion cars in price, range and availability all the pie in the sky dreams do not amount to jack squat.

    1. Does the 2015 Mazda Miata have to outperform the 2015 Porsche Boxter to be a competitor in the market?

      Different people have different transportation needs, but EVERYONE needs to be ready to adapt for the day when oil is no longer cheaper than water. Developing alternative automotive technologies is always a good thing — especially in urban areas where stupid city planners put up 3 uncoordinated sensor-based stoplights every kilometer.

    1. Last year there was more new electrical power generation installed in the US using PV than all other technologies combined. Coals fraction will continue to erode. 100% of all ICE cars are powered by burning fossil fuels. That will never decline.

      Plus, if you’re so inclined, you can generate all of your transportation energy on your own roof. Try that with an ICE mobile.

    2. Yes, some carbon fuels are dirtier than others due to impurities (like sulphur in coal).

      But the bigger issue is carbon dioxide (CO2) — which burning any carbon fuel produces. And in surprisingly large quantities, too. The less carbon fuel — of any source — that is combusted to produce energy for cars, the better.

      This argues in favor of EVs, even if half of electricity comes from coal. It also argues in favor of conserving on our use of ALL carbon fuels.

      And as quiviran notes below, it also argues for more electricity from renewables — solar, wind, hydro — which is already happening.

  8. Big 3 American automobile manufacturers are in bed with Big Oil big time as both own huge amounts of stock in each other’s corporations.
    Apple & Tesla are well funded sustainability independent corporations on a mission of transformative transportation.

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