Will they or won’t they? Will they or won’t they? Will the executives at Apple decide the company should build a car or not? It’s a question people have been asking for years, and it looks like the evidence is starting to stack up in favor of Apple not just building a car, but an electric car.
The company has recently agreed to settle the lawsuit brought against it by battery manufacturer A123 Systems over allegations that it was poaching A123’s employees, who were well-positioned to help Apple develop its own car battery. All the details of the settlement and the case have yet to be released, but from court documents that are already available, it appears that’s exactly what Apple was doing.
As Business Insider points out, one of the employees Apple is accused of poaching is Mujeeb Ijaz, the former Chief Technology Officer at A123. One of his responsibilities was overseeing the development of batteries for the energy recovery systems in Formula One cars. Before his time at A123, Ijaz spent 16 years working for Ford in its Battery and Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle division.
From the iPhone to the Macbook, nearly everything Apple makes uses batteries, so there’s plenty of reason for it to invest in battery technology, and it also makes sense for it to hire the most effective people to develop its battery technology. Someone like Ijaz, however, is so specialized, it’s hard to understand how his experience in automotive batteries makes him the best person to help improve the iPhone’s battery life.
Apparently Apple hasn’t just poached A123’s employees either. LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Toshiba have apparently all been targeted by Apple as well. A123’s lawyers have also claimed that “all of the Individual Defendants [allegedly poached by Apple from A123] are working in a field of battery science, technology, and/or products that is substantially similar if not identical to the field they worked on in at A123.”
While there’s no proof yet that Apple is building an electric car, it is hiring lots of battery engineers, and employing them in “similar if not identical” areas that they were previously working in. It’s clearly aggressively pursuing battery research and development of some kind, and it’s spending a lot of money to do so. If the employees it’s hiring are working in nearly identical areas as they were at their previous companies like A123 alleges, it makes Ijaz’s hiring look a lot more suspicious. Why would Apple hire an automotive battery specialist and then not use him to develop car batteries? What “similar if not identical” job could he have that isn’t car-related?
The evidence is certainly circumstantial, but it’s only the latest piece of the puzzle. Business Insider also compiled 10 more reasons to believe Apple is working on an electric car. It’s entirely possible that Apple only wants to develop the software for self-driving cars to use, but when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it starts to look like Apple really is developing its own electric car.
If its launch of an electric car crashes and burns, Apple is probably one of the few companies that could survive such a failure. It would be rough, but a failed Apple car probably wouldn’t have a huge impact on phone and computer sales.
If Apple succeeds, though, and ends up finding the kind of success it found with the iPhone, it would probably do a lot more than give Tesla a run for its money. It would probably be the first company to sell electric cars in numbers that rival some of the more established brands in the industry. In just a few years, the iPhone changed the cell phone industry, and it would be incredibly fascinating to watch Apple do the same to the car industry.
No matter how exciting and well-built the Apple car might be, it’s going to have to find a way to make sure a charging network is in place if it wants to succeed. As Derek found out while driving the Fiat 500e in LA, without an established charging network, it’s difficult to truly enjoy an electric vehicle. With the country blanketed in charging stations by the time the car goes on sale, however, buying an Apple car could be a very tempting option.