Reuters yesterday reported that Apple plans to bring its self-driving electric vehicle to market by 2024, although delays are possible. The core of the company's strategy is a new battery design that could drastically reduce battery production costs and increase the vehicle's range, according to a source familiar with Apple's battery design.
Apple plans to use something that the source dubs a “monocell” battery design that allows individual cells in the battery to be enlarged and free up space inside the battery by eliminating the bags and modules that hold battery materials. This means that more active material can be packed inside the battery, potentially increasing the vehicle's range. Although such a “monocell,” if we are truly talking about a single cell—which must store all active elements—is electrochemically impossible.
Sources also said Apple is studying the chemistry of a battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate. The same batteries are used by Tesla for the production of medium-range cars made in their Giga Shanghai.
Apple declined to comment on its plans or future products.
In fact, the description of the design sounds like the description of the technologies presented by Tesla during Battery Day:
- enlarged cells (4680), which have more active material inside,
- reducing the number of redundant structures within the package itself, which reduce weight, size and cost,
- the voids between the cells are filled with epoxy, which will make the packaging as rigid as brick, and what may have been referred to by Reuters' source as “monocell.”
Well, so far, Apple has not made any official statements that could confirm this information and shed some light or completely deny these rumors. Nevertheless, this issue attracted the attention of Tesla CEO Elon Musk, which is not surprising, since it seems that Apple's "unique" developments are not just non-unique, but almost identical to Tesla's developments presented just three months ago.
Strange, if true.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2020
- Tesla already uses iron-phosphate for medium range cars made in our Shanghai factory.
- A monocell is electrochemically impossible, as max voltage is ~100X too low. Maybe they meant cells bonded together, like our structural battery pack?
Building a car is a huge supply chain challenge, even for a giant like Apple. It took Tesla 17 years to become profitable. Even if Apple builds prototypes, mass production will be extremely difficult. The only reasonable way out for them would be to cooperate with some automaker that already has the installed capacity to produce cars.
In light of this, Musk also recalled the difficult times when Model 3 was launched. He wrote that he contacted Tim Cook at that time to discuss the possibility of an acquisition of Tesla by Apple. The offer was generous because, at that time, Apple could buy Tesla for 1/10 of its current value. However, Cook refused to accept the offer, which was probably not his best choice. Musk and Tesla were faced with a real production hell at that time, which probably hardened them very much. Perhaps it was these difficulties that helped the company to build the fortitude to achieve the incredible progress that we are all seeing now.
During the darkest days of the Model 3 program, I reached out to Tim Cook to discuss the possibility of Apple acquiring Tesla (for 1/10 of our current value). He refused to take the meeting.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 22, 2020
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About the Author
Eva Fox joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover breaking news as an automotive journalist. The main topics that she covers are clean energy and electric vehicles. As a journalist, Eva is specialized in Tesla and topics related to the work and development of the company.