Apple Appears To Be Working On Electric Car Charging Technology — But Will it Be Another Tesla-Style Supercharger?

Apple’s skunkworks, as we have reported before, is reputedly working on an electric vehicle under the project Titan codename. While we were initially skeptical of the reports, rumors about the project have been swirling incessantly around Silicon Valley over the past few years and have become ever harder to ignore. Having taken on a number of automotive industry hires, including Johan Jungwirth from Mercedes-Benz (who’s now moved on to Volkswagen), and Chris Porritt from Tesla, the prospect of an Apple car at some point has become somewhat of an open secret. Albeit one where the details are very well hidden. 

After Chris Poritt left Tesla he joined Apple. Image courtesy Tesla.

After Chris Poritt left Tesla he joined Apple. Image courtesy Tesla.

But in May another little tidbit leaked out. And while it wasn’t anything as exciting as prototype pictures of apple’s mysterious self-driving car, this particular rumor suggests the most profitable company in the world is heavily involved in researching a new way to charge your electric car. Naturally, this rumor suggests Apple is, as usual, considering the whole usability aspect of electric vehicles from the consumer’s perspective. 

In a recent Reuters article, Apple is reported as having talks with a variety of charge point manufacturers. Initially this might be considered as simply Apple considering adding further charging for the EV driving staff. However, Reuters is clear – the discussions were not about the installation of charging points: they were about something altogether more involved. 

Taken together with the massive number of electric car charging specialists who’ve joined Apple of late — Nan Liu (a wireless charging researcher), Rónán Ó Braonáin (from BMW group’s integrated charging infrastructure team) and Kurt Adelberger (from Google), it looks like Apple is thoroughly invested in improving EV charging.

It’s clear Apple is building some form of electric car, probably with autonomous driving capabilities. And for that, it will need to develop an appropriate charging system.

A giant USB C connector to your laptop won’t cut the mustard.

The question that arises then is, will Apple be introducing some form of proprietary charging system, like Tesla’s supercharger? 

Tesla's Supercharger Standard is good, but what will Apple's car use? (Image via wikipedia)

Tesla’s Supercharger Standard is good, but what will Apple’s car use? (Image via wikipedia)

It’s hard to tell, because Apple, like Tesla, has a habit of picking, adopting or inventing technologies that suit its own corporate needs rather than a wider audience.

Case in point: you only have to look at the number of periphery technologies used by Apple almost exclusively in the past few decades. The dropping of the floppy disk from its computers in the late 1990s; duping serial connections for USB; adopting thunderbolt and USB C; and if rumors are to be believed of the upcoming iPhone 7, dumping the audio jack for a digital connection.

We can hope that instead Apple will work within the current standards, because adding yet another charging standard would be complicating an already messy marketplace. And while we wouldn’t deny that there’s a lot of room for improvement in EV charging, both in terms of sheer numbers of chargers, but also in terms of speed and indeed just the quality of the user interface on many chargers, the idea of a special Apple charger is painful. 

Especially if, as Apple usually does, that charging technology comes with a ten or fifteen percent premium on a comparable product from a rival firm.

Apple's hiring spree hasn't gone unnoticed outside the IT industry. Image (cc-by-sa-4.0) by Marlith via Wikimedia.

Apple’s hiring spree hasn’t gone unnoticed outside the IT industry. Image (cc-by-sa-4.0) by Marlith via Wikimedia.

There might be hope Apple’s usual approach won’t apply in this case: Reuters reports that an unnamed engineering and construction firm has already reached out to Apple offering its services in the electric vehicle charging arena.

“It would be natural to assume if Apple is going to have a full battery electric vehicle that creates a seamless consumer experience the way Apple does, the charging infrastructure and its availability would be of paramount importance,” the Reuters report quotes.

And that’s certainly the case. As we have covered elsewhere, in California alone, the governor is pushing for an 8 fold increase in the number of EVs by 2025 – and to support that there’s going to have to be a concomitant increase in public – and private – charging. With complaints that the small independent suppliers have failed to meet public demand for chargers, and Apple’s general commitment to exceptional customer experiences, it is unsurprising to see them looking at the infrastructure problem. Now it’s just a waiting game to see what the answer is.

Do you think Apple will utilize its own charging standard? Or will it attempt to improve on the existing standards? Let us know in the Comments below.


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