Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is reportedly aiming to manufacture electric cars by 2020. The company is hiring experts from battery maker A123 Systems and Tesla for developing lithium-ion car batteries to be used in the cars.
A group of 200 engineers is set up by Apple for the project while 18 employees from Tesla and 12 experts have been hired for developing electric batteries. Last month, Apple was sued by A123 for “poaching” its employees. In 2012, A123 filed for bankruptcy though it is sustained by supplying batteries to Fisker Automotive’s hybrid car. The company has sought to hire experts in the field as battery as being a major back draw in the electric car market.
“Apple is currently developing a large scale battery division to compete in the same field as A123,” said the lawsuit.
Apple has been on a hiring spree for employees from A123 who have expertise in developing lithium-ion batteries. The lawsuit filed by the battery supplier at the Massachusetts Federal court mentioned that employees had broken their agreements. The invasion of tech companies in the automobile sector is likely to create tough competition between companies like Google and Tesla.
About one and a half years ago, Apple had filed nine battery related patents and about 290 auto-related patents which is on the lower side when compared to rival Samsung which has about 900 patents based on auto technology. An analysis report by Thomson Reuters IP & science of public patent filing the number of filings from the companies including Uber, Google and Tesla had tripled during 2011-2014.
When people spotted suspicious cars and vans cruising the streets of Silicon Valley two weeks ago, it gave rise to the iCar rumors. When vans moved around suspiciously with big clunky looking camera setups on their roofs, it fuelled rumors about the Apple iCar. These initial rumors also mentioned reports of a LIDAR equipped SUV prowling through the San Francisco Bay area. Google already has a name for itself when it comes to its company cars roaming the streets to map for Google street view. So, at that time it fuelled rumors that Apple may be up to a somewhat similar trick, especially when the Cupertino giant had come out in the open regarding its intention to build an independent Apple Maps system for its phones.
Sources familiar with the project remained unclear if Apple would develop the car. The company has brought in several employees from Tesla and others, including Johann Jumgwirth who developed smartphone integration for Mercedes-Benz until September. The reports indicate the company’s interest in competing with Google, which is testing the self-driving cars and electric car makers like Tesla.
However the company might give up the plans of developing the car by itself or might outsource the manufacturing process to automobile companies. While automobile makers are focusing on developing connected cars and smartphone integration, tech companies are developing self-driving and electric cars.
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