Apple Inc is heading into the territory of electric cars as the company starts to delve into charging stations, hiring engineers with expertise in the field and talking to charging station companies according to those familiar with the matter and a review of LinkedIn profiles.
Silicon Valley has speculated that Apple may jump into the industry and it is only now that the company appears to have taken moves for what seems like groundwork of the infrastructure and related software that powers electric cars.
Apple’s move is covering a missing link in the electric car industry, namely, the charging stations for the car’s batteries. This presents an opportunity for Apple as it is known to streamline and simplify designs that made it a leader in consumer electronics.
Apple declined to comment on the story and none of the sources specifically stated that the company is intending to build charging stations for electric cars.
Sources last year told Reuters that Apple was studying the self-driving electric vehicle market as it looks to diversify from its maturing market for the iPhone.
According to one of the sources, Apple is currently talking to charging station companies about their underlying technology and the electronics giant isn’t focusing on building a charging station for its employees as they already have one. Apple, the source said, is more focused on the car.
The firms Apple talked to are cautious of sharing information with a potential rival.
There is still no information as to whether the company would develop its own proprietary technology like the Supercharger network of Tesla Motors, or design a universally compatible system.
Electric vehicle charging manufacturer NRG Energy Inc’s president Arun Banskota said that the company was “in discussions with every manufacturer of today and every potential manufacturer of tomorrow,” and said nothing specific about Apple.
At least four electric vehicle charging specialists were hired by Apple, which included former integrated charging infrastructure employee for BMW, Rónán Ó Braonáin. His work also included communications between EVs, BMW and utilities.
Apple also hired engineer Nan Liu who was delving into wireless charging for electric vehicles, as well as Google’s former charging expert Kurt Adelberger.
Players in the electric vehicle charging station business include companies such as Car Charging Group Inc, ChargePoint, SemaConnect, ClipperCreek, Black & Veatech, AECOM, General Electric, Siemens and Delta Electronics Inc.
California’s three largest utilities also have plans to install charging stations.
The problem of the electric car industry is a catch 22 with property owners unwilling to install charging stations without the rollout of electric vehicles en masse, but at the same time consumers are reluctant to buy the cars unless charging stations have become widely available.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that California will need to add 13 to 25 times as many public charging stations by 2020 to its current number in order to reach the target of 1 million zero-emission vehicles running in the state.
Tesla was able to boost demand after the announcement of its more affordable Model 3 sedan garnering hundreds of thousands of reservations for the vehicle, outpacing the availability of charging stations.
Tesla’s 600 “Supercharger” stations are the leader in the industry, able to charge EVs in 30 minutes, which is twice as fast as the next standard fast charger called Level 2.