Apple confirms hiring of Ulrich Kranz, former CEO of EV company Canoo

Apple has hired the former co-founder and CEO of electric vehicle company Canoo to help with the development of the Apple Car, Bloomberg first reported, citing unnamed sources. Apple has confirmed to TechCrunch it has hired Kranz, but did not provide further details into his job responsibilities or title.

Kranz resigned his position at Canoo in April after steering the company toward public listing and a new leadership team, and he is reported to have been scooped up by Apple within weeks. The news comes a couple of months after Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped hints that the mysterious Apple Car would include autonomous vehicle technology as a key feature. Hiring an executive with decades of experience at the cutting edge of the auto industry is a clear sign that Apple is moving ahead with its vehicle manufacturing plans.

Apple is keeping a tight lip on its plans for its vehicle. According to a Reuters report from December, Apple intends to produce an electric passenger vehicle with “breakthrough battery technology” and automated vehicle technology by 2024. Other than that, no one knows what the car will look like or who, if anyone, will be the manufacturer, although it’s not outlandish to imagine Apple creating both the hardware and software.

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Tim Cook drops hints about autonomous tech and the Apple car

Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped a few hints in an interview released Monday about the direction of the much-anticipated Apple car, including that autonomous vehicle technology will likely be a key feature.

“The autonomy itself is a core technology, in my view,” Cook told Kara Swisher in an interview on the “Sway” podcast. “If you sort of step back, the car, in a lot of ways, is a robot. An autonomous car is a robot. And so there’s lots of things you can do with autonomy. And we’ll see what Apple does.”

Cook was careful not to reveal too much, declining to answer Swisher’s question outright if Apple is planning to produce a car itself or the tech within the car. What clues he did drop, suggests Project Titan is working on something in the middle.

“We love to integrate hardware, software and services, and find the intersection points of those because we think that’s where the magic occurs,” said Cook. “And we love to own the primary technology that’s around that.”

To which Swisher responded: “I’m going to go with car for that, if you don’t mind. I’m just going to jump to car.”

We are, too.

Many people in the micromobility industry like to say that e-scooters are basically iPhones on wheels, but it’s more likely that the Apple car will actually be the iPhone on wheels. Apple is generally known for owning all of its hardware and software, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Apple engineers working closely with a manufacturer to produce an Apple car, with the potential to one day cut out the middle man and become the manufacturer.

The so-called Project Titan appeared at risk of failing before a car was ever seen by the public with mass layoffs in 2019. However, more recent reports suggest that the project is alive and well with plans to make a self-driving electric passenger vehicle by 2024.

Earlier this year, CNBC reported that Apple was close to finalizing a deal with Hyundai-Kia to build an Apple-branded self-driving car at the Kia assembly plant in West Point, Georgia. Sources familiar with Apple’s interest in Hyundai say the company wants to work with an automaker that will let Apple hold the reins on the software and hardware that will go into the car.

The two companies never reached a deal and talks fell apart in February, according to multiple reports. That hasn’t stopped the flow of rumors and reports about Apple and its plans, which have previously been linked to other suppliers, automakers such as Nissan and even startups.

It’s still unclear what the Apple car will look like, but as a passenger vehicle, rather than a robotaxi or delivery vehicle, it will be going up against the likes of Tesla.

“I’ve never spoken to Elon, although I have great admiration and respect for the company he’s built,” said Cook. “I think Tesla has done an unbelievable job of not only establishing the lead, but keeping the lead for such a long period of time in the EV space. So I have great appreciation for them.”

Project Titan is being led by Doug Field, who was formerly senior vice president of engineering at Tesla and one of the key players behind the Model 3 launch.

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Report: Nissan shot down Apple deal to avoid becoming Foxconn of cars

Report: Nissan shot down Apple deal to avoid becoming Foxconn of cars

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

A potential partnership between Apple and Nissan foundered due to disagreements over branding, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. Apple wanted Nissan to build Apple-branded cars, while Nissan preferred to keep its own brand on the vehicles.

In recent months, Apple has reportedly been looking for a partner to build an Apple-branded electric car. Last week, Bloomberg reported that negotiations with Kia (and its parent company, Hyundai) had ended without a deal. The Financial Times says that Apple has also “sounded out” BMW as a potential partner.

Apple reportedly held preliminary talks with Nissan, though the talks didn’t reach the most senior levels at either company:

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Apple/Hyundai car talks ended fruitlessly, report says

Apple/Hyundai car talks ended fruitlessly, report says

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson/Jonathan Gitlin/Getty Images)

If Apple has plans to build an electric autonomous vehicle, it won’t be with Hyundai Motor Group. On Sunday, Bloomberg reported that “people familiar with the matter” told the publication that “Apple paused discussions with Hyundai and Kia weeks ago”.

Apple’s highly secretive vehicle plans—codenamed Project Titan—have driven a lot of speculation over the years. The latest bout of rumormongering began in December 2020, when Reuters, citing anonymous sources, claimed that Apple was going to start building and selling a car by 2024.

The rumors shifted to a higher gear in early January, when the Korea Economic Daily reported that Apple had been in talks with the Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group. This was confirmed by Hyundai to other outlets, albeit vaguely; the company told CNBC that Apple had been in talks with other automakers as well and that no deals had been signed.

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Apple’s car project could put it on a collision course with Tesla

Apple’s car project could put it on a collision course with Tesla

Enlarge (credit: alxpin / Getty)

Rumors are continuing to trickle in about Apple’s long-expected car project. On Wednesday, CNBC reported that Apple is close to finalizing a deal for an Apple Car to be manufactured at Kia’s assembly plant in West Point, Georgia, an hour southwest of Atlanta. Apple is a famously secretive company, and I don’t have any inside information about Apple’s plans. But I’m skeptical that whatever product Apple ultimately unveils will match CNBC’s description of it.

According to CNBC, the Apple Car, due out in 2024 or 2025, will be “fully autonomous.” One source told CNBC that Apple is aiming to make “autonomous, electric vehicles designed to operate without a driver and focused on the last mile.” CNBC predicts that the cars could be used for food delivery or in a robotaxi service.

If true, that would represent a dramatic departure for Apple. A central feature of Apple’s corporate culture is that it sells hardware products directly to users. There are technology companies like IBM and Microsoft that focus on selling to business customers. There are technology companies—from Uber to Google—that focus on building services.

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Apple allegedly working with Hyundai on electric car for 2027

An Apple logo has been photoshopped onto an empty road at night.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Apple’s automotive plan includes a collaboration with Hyundai, according to a report published on Friday by the Korea Economic Daily. It says that Apple and Hyundai are working on battery technology that will differ from the kind used in the automaker’s new battery electric vehicle platform, which goes into production later this year. The report also claims that the Apple car will arrive in 2027 but offers no more detail about the collaboration or any possible vehicles or technologies that could emerge as a result.

Will they-won’t they rumors about an Apple car have been circulating since Apple created an internal group called Project Titan in 2014. Since Apple is notoriously tight-lipped, few details exist about the project other than reports of staff being fired and plans being scaled back. But by late 2019 it’s believed that 1,200 Apple staff were working on Project Titan, and in December 2020 Reuters reported that an Apple car could hit the street by 2025.

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Group has fast emerged as one of the leaders of the pack for BEV engineering and is about to debut a new platform called E-GMP that will underpin 23 different new models between now and 2025. Hyundai has opted for an 800V electrical architecture for E-GMP which will allow it to charge to 80 percent within 18 minutes. Hyundai is also working with the startup Canoo on BEVs.

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Apple is allegedly working on a passenger car, breakthrough battery tech

An Apple logo has been photoshopped onto an empty road at night.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

Apple may start building and selling a car within the next four years. According to Reuters, the vehicle may (or may not) use self-driving technology developed by Apple, and it may (or may not) involve a “breakthrough” battery design that would be cheaper and provide longer range than current technology.

Reuters says that Apple is working on lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery chemistry, which is cheaper than battery cells that use nickel manganese cobalt chemistry. In July of this year, Tesla announced it would switch to this chemistry for Chinese-built Tesla Model 3s by the end of 2020.

Reuters also says that Apple’s battery design “bulks up the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials.”

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