Report: Apple, BMW Have Been Discussing Carbon Fibre Electric Car Production Techniques For Nearly a Year

For some time now, electronics giant Apple has been rumored to be working on building an all-electric Apple Car. Fitted with some form of self-driving technology, the skunkworks project is believed by many in the technology and automotive world to be Apple’s answer to the highly-successful Tesla Model S.

Apple has been in talks with BMW over its carbon-fibre reinforced plastics.

Apple has been in talks with BMW over its carbon-fibre reinforced plastics.

So far, Apple has quietly busied itself with hiring an ever-increasing number of experts for its top-secret project, including a healthy number of employees from fellow Silicon Valley company Tesla Motors as well as a series of auto-industry executives from well-known automakers such as Mercedes-Benz and Ford. The most recent hire, reported earlier this month, is Doug Betts, Fiat Chrysler’s former head of global quality control.

Yet Apple isn’t just looking to hire auto industry professionals for its top-secret automotive project, says German newspaper Manager Magazine. In an article published last week, the right-leaning publication cites an ongoing negotiation between BMW and Apple over a potential cooperation on electric vehicles.

The focus of these negotiations it appears isn’t so much the underlying technology pertaining to the way in which BMW builds its electric car battery packs or indeed its drivetrain, but the way in which it manufactures the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic chassis and body panels of its i3 and i8 plug-in cars.

BMW's carbon-fibre reinforced plastic is believed to be the reason for Apple's interest.

BMW’s carbon-fibre reinforced plastic is believed to be the reason for Apple’s interest.

According to Manager Magazine, Apple CEO Tim Cook, along with other senior Apple executives, visited BMW’s Leipzig production facility where the BMW i3 electric car is made some time last fall — around the same time that the WallStreetJournal claims Cook officially approved the Apple Car project. But while some outlets are reporting that Apple is looking to use the BMW i3 as the basis on which to build its own electric car, we’ve come to a different conclusion.

Apple isn’t interested in using the BMW i3 as the basis for its own car: it wants to replicate the BMW production processes and materials for its own vehicle.

Looking at the original German article from Manager Magazine, we note that the original authors say that Tim Cook was indeed looking to utilise the BMW platform for a car project with a view to making an Apple-branded car that was just like the i3. Negotiations had begun to that end, it reports, but were broken off due to differences between the two companies and the way they operate. Nevertheless, it says, both BMW and Apple agreed to keep in close contact should their aims become more compatible in the future.

Having spent some time covering Apple and its products long before the birth of Transport Evolved however, this author would like to point out that Apple, like Tesla, doesn’t have a habit of building Apple-branded products based on an existing third-party product.

Given what we know of Apple, we think it's unlikely that it will ask BMW to make it an electric car.

Given what we know of Apple, we think it’s unlikely that it will ask BMW to make it an electric car.

Indeed, part of what makes Apple appealing to so many of its loyal fans is its devotion to producing products which are both uniquely Apple in their design but also in their engineering. From the graphical user interface of its latest operating system to the design of its latest laptops, Apple is known for a ‘no compromise’ attitude towards what it believes is the best product on the market.

Like Tesla, Apple strives to be in control of every part of the engineering and development process, from product design and construction through to after-sales care. If that means using a new, proprietary connector or a standard that has yet to be adopted by the rest of the industry, then so be it.

Handing over an entire portion of product engineering and design to a third-party company — even if it is BMW — seems completely out of character for the multi-billion dollar company.

Which brings us to the final point we’d like to make. Apple, like Tesla, likes to learn from the rest of their respective industries when it comes to perfecting an idea or technology, but that doesn’t mean that it is about to hand over manufacturing of a product to another firm.

Instead, it prefers to license or adopt that technology for its own use, hiring experts in the field as required to bring things in-house wherever possible. Given Apple currently has more than $202.8 billion cash in hand, we’d like to remind readers that’s more than enough to build its own automotive factories from scratch using techniques learned from other automakers to produce an efficient and appealing electric car.

Given some of the differences reported between Apple and BMW, we’re guessing that’s the direction Apple will ultimately take, making its own version of BMW’s carbon-fiber reinforced plastic for its own in-house electric car design.

How much it will cost, when it will debut, and how it will perform against cars from Tesla and others, are questions we’re eager to find the answer to.


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