Computer tech behemoth Apple Inc. is reportedly in talks with two of China’s biggest electric vehicle battery makers to build cells for a vehicle it has never publicly confirmed it plans to produce.
Reuters, citing four sources, reported the California-based tech company is talking with CATL and BYD, the largest and fourth-largest battery producers in the world about the project. The talks are not a simple as how many and when as Apple wants the batteries built in the United States.
“My understanding is that Apple is talking about building advanced battery production factories here, here in the U.S.,” Jared Bernstein, a senior White House economic adviser, told Reuters.
“That is completely consistent with what the president has talked about in terms of onshoring supply chains particularly in areas where we might grab global market share.” President Joe Biden is hosting a summit on improving the manufacturing supply chain in the U.S. this week.
Building batteries in the U.S.
No location for this proposed battery plant has been revealed, but it follows the lead of potential competitors to the as-yet-named — or even confirmed — Apple battery-electric vehicle.
However, Tesla’s produces batteries for its vehicles at Gigafactory just outside Reno, Nevada and will make more at its facility near Austin, Texas, which is currently under construction. General Motors is partnering with South Korea’s LG Energy, a subsidiary of LG Chem, to build its Ultium series of batteries at a plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which is nearing completion.
The company is also building a second site near its plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, which will supply batteries for the Cadillac Lyriq, the brand’s first-ever fully electric vehicle. Ford is partnering with SK Innovation to build batteries at a site in northern Georgia.
The demand to build batteries is a potential stumbling block to a deal given the current state of affairs between the U.S. and Chinese government, but talks haven’t ended.
Project Titan or Titanic?
Apple’s been rumored to be building an electric vehicle for nearly a decade while never coming out and confirming it and reportedly cancelling it at least once in favor of simply producing autonomous technology to be sold to other makers.
What was known internally at Apple as Project Titan went through a series of ups-and-downs after it was formed in 2014. Insiders suggested that as many as 1,000 people were brought in to work on the car’s development, some with traditional automotive experience, others from Tesla and similar nascent enterprises.
But the project went through a massive downsizing two years ago, at least 20% of the staff either let go or voluntarily leaving. Many others were transferred within Apple to other projects, a spokesman told CNBC in January 2019.
A few years back, CEO Tim Cook decided to put the rumors to rest, saying the company was working on the development of autonomous technology that could be used by automakers. It is projected to be ready in 2024.
However, the company reportedly entered into talks in January with Hyundai to produce a vehicle. Early reports had the car being produced at the Kia plant — Hyundai owns Kia — in West Point, Georgia. Apple never commented on the discussions while Hyundai issued a terse statement confirmed talks were in their early stages.