Apple explores charging stations for electric vehicles, sources say

“Apple Inc. is investigating how to charge electric cars, talking to charging station companies and hiring engineers with expertise in the area, according to people familiar with the matter and a review of LinkedIn profiles,” Julia Love and Alexandria Sage report for Reuters.

“The moves show Apple responding to a key shortcoming of electric vehicles: ‘filling up’ the batteries. A shortage of public charging stations, and the hours wasted in charging a car, could be an opportunity for Apple, whose simple designs have transformed consumer electronics,” Love and Sage report. “Apple is now asking charging station companies about their underlying technology, one person with knowledge of the matter said. The talks, which have not been reported, do not concern charging for electric cars of Apple employees, a service the company already provides. They indicate that Apple is focused on a car, the person added. Charging firms are treading carefully, the person added, wary of sharing too much with a company they view as a potential rival.”

Love and Sage report, “It is unclear whether Apple would want its own proprietary technology, such as Tesla Motors’ Supercharger network, or design a system compatible with offerings from other market players.”

MacDailyNews Note: You might want to look at how iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches charge for a clarifying clue.

“Apple has also hired at least four electric vehicle charging specialists, including former BMW employee Rónán Ó Braonáin, who worked on integrating charging infrastructure into home energy systems as well as communication between EVs, BMW and utilities, according a LinkedIn review,” Love and Sage report. “As recently as January Apple hired Nan Liu, an engineer who researched a form of wireless charging for electric vehicles, for instance. Quartz earlier this month reported that Apple had hired former Google charging expert Kurt Adelberger.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take:

I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do. — Steve Jobs

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  1. … Deserves everything they get.

    That’s what Apple’s marketing has come to. You’re going to try to sell the safety and sanctity of a vehicle purchase from someone who’s known to be a complete f*ckup and incompetent?

    Good luck with that one!

  2. Tesla is already there and gives away the power to it’s customers. Go to the link listed below detailing the program, scroll down and click on 2016 to see what will be online by the end of this year. There are also tabs for Asia and Europe.

    The Superchargers are able to add as much as 170 miles of range in 30 minutes. 80 % in 40 Minutes.

    Tesla also has a growing network of Destination Charging Stations in partnership with Hotels, Restaurants and Shopping Centers.

    Apple is behind and will find it very time consuming and expensive to catch up without partnering with someone. Like Tesla.

    1. Without a charging backbone, there is no electric car. Tesla is far ahead of everyone else in the world with their superchargers – and they are pushing tech to power at even higher amps/faster speeds than at present (cooled cables, etc.). The public charging system is very slow by comparison. What the country needs most is for companies to agree on a common standard and not have each with their own plug and connector. Tesla is trying to do this already. If Apple tries to have an Apple-centric connector, they will fail at this point (hopefully they realize this).

      The other thing that makes a huge difference and really makes electric cars viable is the size of the battery….something Apple has tended to eschoo in its phones despite customers calling for “less thin, more charge”. I hope they don’t skimp because the smaller the battery, the more often you will need to charge…and it makes reliance on super fast charging even greater for distance routes. A small battery on a weaksauce public charging system is a total design failure – one that incumbent car makers are too willing to choose (to keep combustion cars looking more attractive). I sincerely hope Apple doesn’t cut corners or costs by offering the battery or car equivalent of an iPhone “edge” connection when 3g and 4g is already available, or stick with a 16GB base model when 64 or 128 is absolutely necessary.

      Go big or go home on this one Apple. Either change the world or stick to your knitting and leave it to others to push the boundaries of what is possible.

      1. Apple has repeatedly looked to lock in their customers with proprietary technology from the Apple Display Connector to FairPlay DRM. You cannot watch iTunes content or read an iBook on a non-Apple device, much less load Mac OS X on anything but Apple Hardware.

        The few times Apple has released stuff for others it tends to suck. Safari for Windows was a huge security mess. Given their history, It would take a huge culture change to embrace an open standard. An open standard probably would threaten Apple’s huge profit margins- commonly 25-30%.

        If I were in charge, I would stay out of the car business except to make telematics and technologies to license. However, if they want in, Tesla would be the upscale brand with the technology that aligns well with Apple’s image.

        I do not wNt Zjony Ive designing my car- it would be of normal height and length, but only be an inch wide and customers would be permanently sealed inside as he hates anything to disturb his lines like a door or a trunk.

        1. DavGreg, your first paragraph in particular is exactly why I worry slightly about whether an Apple vehicle can become successful. They have many of the right skills but would be need to do things very differently for a car than they do for consumer electronics which, I think you’re right, would seem to require a cultural change within the organization. If they don’t make such a change, you’ll also be right that they should have instead focused on the telematics for others. I love Apple, but won’t hold my breath that they will successfully mass produce a car worth owning in any immediate future. I do bet it will have the best touchscreen and Music integration by far though!

      2. It’s absolutely vital that any electric car must be rechargeable at any public recharging point. There must be an agreed standard which will work on all cars, even if specific manufacturers are able to offer an enhanced capability for specific cars.

        Unfortunately manufacturers never learn. In Europe there are quite a few cars running on Liquid Petroleum Gas ( LPG or Autogas ). With LPG, you need a pressurised delivery system, so a high pressure connector has to be sealed onto your fuel tank. In continental Europe they use one type of connector, but in the UK, they use a quite different sort. LPG fuel is a relatively recent concept and it’s ridiculous that incompatible standards have emerged.

        The other aspect about public recharging points is that the 30 minute recharge is only possible if nobody else has got there first. I know somebody who drives an electric car and he gets very annoyed if he runs his battery down and arrives at a known recharging point to find it occupied. The 30 min recharge that he was anticipating has just turned into anything up to an hour and because the recharge points are often in prime parking spots, some people leave their car on the recharger for their entire stay at the venue, rather than just while the recharge is happening.

  3. Electric cars will not be fully competitive with fuel-burning cars until the recharge time for 90% of distance X is under 110% of the refueling time for distance X.

    “As much as 170 miles in 30 minutes” means a 170-mile maximum; let’s be more realistic, though still charitable, and call it 150 miles. To get a 150-mile range into, for example, a Toyota Prius, that’s time time it takes to put 4 gallons of gasoline into the car; call it 6 minutes maximum, and you could add 3 more minutes and have a 450-mile range.

    When an electric car can give you a 400-mile range with a 10-minute recharge cycle, at that point we really have something to talk about. But not until then.

    1. I respectfully disagree with your premise as worded since you’re far too broad in your characterization.

      Electric cars today (at least Tesla anyway) are utterly superior to combustion engine vehicles in every single way but two at present – speed of long distance charging (which you reference) and also on a purchase price basis. Absolutely everything else favors an electric vehicle by a country mile and a half. I’ll likely never buy another gas burner.

      For 90% of a car’s use – commuting – the charge time is irrelevant as you plug in at night. The proverbial tank is always full every morning. Charge time only matters on longer trips which, for most people (not all), these aren’t daily or even regular occurrences. Superchargers provide 180 miles in about 30 mins while you’re getting coffee, stretching legs or getting a snack somewhere. They are generally co-located in convenient spots by design. Most of the time though, particularly with a large battery, charging is a non-issue.

      The cost of EVs (the other drawback to mass adoption) is coming down quickly as well since the biggest expense is the battery and battery production capacity will more than double within a year. Within two-five years, you’d be hard pressed to argue you’re rather buy a gas vehicle again even based on price.

      While a car regularly spends 10 mins at a gas station every single time the tank gets low, an EV requires something comparable (albeit slower) only when taking long trips. Otherwise it never needs to stop since you plug in at home nightly. To say “EVs can’t be competitive with fuel-burning cars” until recharge times improve is not at all as clear cut as you imply.

      1. You left out at least a couple of ‘current’ disadvantages of electric cars.
        1. lifecycle cost of batteries (replacement, disposal, etc.)
        2. route deviations and planning requirements to find charging stations.

        1. I certainly didn’t leave anything out to in order to deceive or obfuscate. I’ll address your two points though.

          1. Batteries are fully recyclable/swappable and are expected to have more than 80% of initial capacity after 10 years of use. They should be operational for somewhere in the ballpark of 500,000 to 600,000 miles. As such, batteries will last longer than an engine will before needing to be replaced.

          2. Route deviations are required to fill up a gas tank. No different than charging, so I guess I don’t understand your point. There are the same number of charging stations now in NYC as there are gas stations (I don’t live there). The number of US charge points are growing rapidly though – Tesla’s charge stations alone more than double annually and are projected to continue doing so for years. There are many providers of destination charging external to Tesla.

    2. Sorry, one more thing. The other bit that you misunderstand or aren’t considering is that you don’t start from zero when you get in an electric vehicle, even for a long trip. I begin any journey with a nearly 300 mile range daily and can add another 180 in 30 mins with a single stop. That’s 480 miles with only a half hour break – well above your 400-mile range and not at all a “realistic limit of 170 miles”. You’ve got that part totally wrong. With a 10 minute stop, it’s 360 miles. That’s today.

      The other thing to consider is that the stated range for an EV is at highway speeds of 65 MPH. If you drive slower, you actually get far more range – a 300 mile rated battery can do 550+ miles in city traffic on a single charge whereas a gas car is less fuel efficient in stop and go.

    3. Where did I read that Tesla was considering switching out a person’s “empty” battery with a recharged battery for about $70? That would take 5-10 minutes and give you full range.

      Gotta be creative here people.

      It’s coming. Ain’t no way it ain’t coming.

      1. Tesla set up a single shop a year or so ago in California to test or demo the idea of swapping batteries instead of having to charge them. The concept worked fine but it still isn’t entirely practical and absolutely isn’t needed. They have since mothballed the site. They could change a battery in 5 minutes. First swap they would also do an inspection which took a little longer. In the past year, Tesla added an additional titanium plate under the battery which would add another few mins today if they were to swap. The process was manual (humans working) and therefore wasn’t free. 10-15 mins to swap a battery and pay for it, or 15 mins to charge for free at a supercharger. The latter won out. They did manage to show how easy it would be to change our batteries though, for what it’s worth.

  4. The next technology revolution will be in batteries or some other sort of electric energy storage. So many technologies are waiting to explode once batteries can double in capacity, halve in price, and quadruple in charging speed.

    It isn’t very Apple-like to use an existing standard, but I sure wish companies would settle on a universal charging system. Put your egos aside and do it for the good of everyone involved.

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