Rumors and drama continue to surround Apple’s development of its own electric vehicle. Although the Apple car has the potential to be a significant source of competition for automakers currently designing EVs, Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess says he isn’t particularly concerned, according to Reuters. Here’s what we know so far about Apple’s plans — and why Volkswagen isn’t sweating it.
Apple’s plans for an electric car
Apple first began designing plans for its own electric car as early as 2014, according to reports from Reuters. Known as Project Titan, the efforts surrounding this vehicle have been shrouded in mystery for years due to the fact that Apple has not made its plans public.
We do know that there has been some upheaval: Apple has paused the project at least once, and in 2019 Apple veteran and former Tesla employee Doug Field laid off nearly 200 people who were working on Project Titan.
Now, though, sources indicate that Apple’s plans have advanced significantly. The brand is reportedly aiming for a 2024 vehicle release date, although delays due to the pandemic are highly possible.
The goal appears to be the creation of a personal vehicle for consumers, according to Reuters. This sets Apple apart from some of its competition, which has focused largely on autonomous ride-hailing services.
The factor that is truly setting the Apple car apart, however, is its battery design. Anonymous insiders told Reuters that Apple’s new “monocell” design could significantly reduce the overall cost of batteries while increasing the range of the vehicle.
It functions by bulking up the battery’s cells, clearing up space within the pack and making it possible to include more active material inside the battery. Sources describe the battery as “next level,” saying that it will be “like the first time you saw the iPhone.”
Manufacturing challenges for Apple
Despite these optimistic reports, Apple faces a fair number of challenges that mean rivals such as Volkswagen aren’t yet too worried. One significant difficulty is the fact that Apple is not an automaker, and therefore will need to rely on an outside source to actually assemble its vehicle.
Reuters noted in December that the brand still seemed unsure as to the route it would take here. It will likely attempt to find a manufacturing partner to make an Apple-branded car, but might end up needing to focus its efforts on simply creating an autonomous driving system that can be integrated into a preexisting vehicle.
Why isn’t Volkswagen concerned?
While manufacturing is a significant issue for Apple, the main challenge — and the reason Volkswagen remains unconcerned — is the issue of cost and scale.
To ensure a profit, auto manufacturers will often require volumes that could pose an issue even for a company as large as Apple, according to Reuters. Suddenly producing upwards of 100,000 vehicles annually is not an easy feat.
Volkswagen CEO Diess stated (per the Reuters article), “The car industry is not a typical tech-sector that you could take over at a single stroke.” While he does note that Apple’s expertise in battery design means that it certainly has the capacity to create a great vehicle, the sheer magnitude of the project has put Volkswagen at ease.
Other experts agree. According to Reuters, Apple investor Trip Miller acknowledges the brand’s design skills, but wonders whether it would be better off creating an advanced operating system for an existing automaker. This would enable Apple to flex its technological advances without needing to create a vehicle from scratch.
Regardless of how Apple plans to proceed, Volkswagen isn’t too worried just yet. The Apple car could be an incredible innovation, but it will take years to execute properly. In the meantime, Volkswagen will continue developing its own vehicles and advancing in the segment.