Sources Say Apple Is Operating An Electric Car Lab In Germany

1 year ago by Inside EVs Staff 50

Apple Car Rendering

Apple Car Rendering

This week a German news outlet, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), claimed that Apple is working from a private electric car lab in Berlin, Germany.

Sunnyvale, California Apple Car Facility

Sunnyvale, California Apple Car Facility

Reportedly, the facility has about 15-20 current employees. All of them are referred to as top German automotive industry experts. Backgrounds vary from engineers, to software programmers and also salespeople. It is stated that the whole group of employees are “futurists” and “progressives” venturing to Apple to leave conservative, stifled positions.

The lab’s primary purpose is to foster an environment in which new ideas can be pitched and tested as Apple works to build a future vehicle to completely change the auto industry. The report provides that the car will surely be electric, but not yet autonomous in its early stages.

Other notable inside information includes that Apple is considering a ride-sharing program like that of BMW’s Drive-Now and European-based car rental service, Sixt.  The report also substantiates rumors that Magna Steyr, Austrian luxury carmaker, will partner with Apple in the manufacturing facet of the venture and that the vehicle may be built in Germany.

Sources: FAZ, AppleCarFans

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50 responses to "Sources Say Apple Is Operating An Electric Car Lab In Germany"

  1. MDEV says:

    The people who knows about EV’s are in California, once again Apple is a company that look for outside US for manufacturing and knowledge. As a disclaimer I have an iPhone made in China.

  2. Get Real says:

    I heard their secret lab was in Liechenstein?

    1. Secret Steve says:

      I have a secret lab too, it’s outside the main train station in Berlin (turn left at MediaMarkt) please don’t tell anyone….

  3. carcus says:

    So 2019/2020 is when many Model 3 Pre-orders will be converted. …. and those reservation holders will have an Apple/Magna car to cross-shop before pulling the Tesla trigger.

    Nice!

  4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Only 15-20 employees? I seem to recall one or more InsideEVs article claiming that Apple’s “Titan” project had something like 1500 employees, which would certainly indicate they’re working on something big. Only 15-20 employees doesn’t sound like anything that’s likely to produce results soon; it sounds more like back-burner R&D.

    I presume Apple is also working on their “Titan” project elsewhere, with a lot more employees.

    1. Steve No Jobs says:

      15-20 employees is only in Germany. They need some German speaking staff to interface with magna in Austria

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Magna is the company you go to if you want a prototype car built for testing. It’s not the company you go to if you’re actually planning to mass produce a car.

        That makes sense if Apple wants to develop autonomous driving hardware, software, and a sensor suite. Which is what I have been suggesting from the first InsideEVs article about an Apple electric car project. Putting “Apple inside” cars built by other companies would be a much better fit to Apple’s business than trying to move into the heavy industry, thin profit margin business of mass producing cars.

        1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Hmmm, I should have looked at the Wikipedia article on Magna Steyr before making that post.

          “…Magna Steyr is not an automobile marque. In 2002, it absorbed Daimler AG’s Eurostar vehicle assembly facility. The company’s vehicle assembly capacity reached 200,000 vehicles a year. It is the largest contract manufacturer for automobiles worldwide, and has several manufacturing sites, with its main car production in Graz in Austria.”

          So okay, this looks reasonable as a partner for Apple to choose to build a hypothetical iCar.

          1. mr. M says:

            They made the BMW Mini for example.

  5. Braben says:

    It makes more sense in the light of this report:

    https://global.handelsblatt.com/breaking/exclusive-bmw-daimler-reject-cooperation-with-apple-over-icar

    Quote: “Apple is primarily looking for German technology and specialists for the project. The search is being conducted out of an office in Berlin.”

  6. carcus says:

    Magna produces a lot of product for the established auto manufacturers, you have to think it’s a big risk for them to sign on with apple and risk losing market (black-balled) from the established buyers.

    I would think it’s a huge decision for them to decide “where the future lies”. I would also think Magna (if going with apple) will pressure apple to do something pretty quick. You wouldn’t want this to drag out, giving the established auto makers time to source outside of Magna.

    1. jelloslug says:

      Magna is larger than most car companies. They can do as they please.

  7. Speculawyer says:

    What?

    That’s a pretty expensive place to develop in and it is not like Germany has shown a great ability to develop an EV.

    Then again, there are are lots of great EEs there that have been developing a lot of good control circuits. I guess it makes some sense.

    1. Braben says:

      Not sure what you are saying. It may not the car you want, but a model like the BMW i8 is a far greater technical accomplishment than what any Silicon Valley company has achieved so far in terms of building cars. Also, while Germany is an expensive place, it’s less so than Silicon Valley …

      1. Speculawyer says:

        ” a model like the BMW i8 is a far greater technical accomplishment than what any Silicon Valley company has achieved so far in terms of building cars”

        An impractical 3-cylinder PHEV with almost zero electric range? Uh . . . no thanks. But it does have a nice sci-fi look that gets it into the movies.

        1. ModernMarvelFan says:

          Handling…

          Model S won’t be able to keep up with i8 on handling loop. Weight doesn’t help.

        2. Braben says:

          As I said, you may not like what they targeted, but from an engineering perspective it’s a far more impressive achievement. A drive train that seamlessly combines ICE and motor on the two axes, an engine with crazy HP per liter displacement, carbon-reinforced plastic body … Tesla and Apple are completely unable to build any of it. Tesla’s strengths are mainly the will to take high risks and marketing. Purely from a technological perspective they don’t have anything that others can’t do.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            You write as if the i8 is actually competition for the Tesla Model S or X. It’s not, and never will be.

            According to Wikipedia, BMW sold 5,456 i8’s to global “retail customers” in 2015. Tesla sold about 50,000 Model S’s globally in 2015.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_i8#Sales_and_markets

            1. mr. M says:

              Not it’s not. The i8 is a sports car, you can use it as such. The model S is a car that can accelerate fast, but is heavy and big.

              Both are nice cars, but they are not direct competiors. And regarding the low number of BMW i8 sold. BMW produced much more than expected due to the good customer response/demand.

      2. Get Real says:

        LOL the I8 is only greater then the Model S in one way–its price.

        The fact remains Braben that Tesla is starting to eat the lunch of the German OEMs in the large luxury segment.

        Meanwhile the compliance-mobile PHEVs, much less the BEVs of the Germans simply can’t compete with both the Model S and the Volt.

        When the Model 3 starts production the German OEMs have the most to lose.

        1. Speculawyer says:

          Yeah, I think BMW, Audi, and Mercedes are betting that Tesla won’t be able to pull off a $35K Model 3.

          And they may be right. Or not. Do they feel lucky?

          They’ve had years to work on things and they haven’t come up with much. I guess they do have short-range PHEVs. Meh.

      3. Open-Mind says:

        “Also, while Germany is an expensive place, it’s less so than Silicon Valley”

        Steve Jobs always owned Mercedes, and Tim Cook owns a Porsche Boxster. Might have something to do with it. Just a guess.

        1. Braben says:

          Not sure what you are trying to say, but I have lived in Germany and now live in Silicon Valley. Cost of living is far higher here than in, say, Berlin (and so are the salaries). The only reason why companies are still here is the large pool of engineering talent. Similar reasons are in favor of Germany as a location when it comes to certain engineering disciplines. To put it plain and simple, Apple is trying to poach top talent in auto engineering.

      4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Braben said:

        “…a model like the BMW i8 is a far greater technical accomplishment than what any Silicon Valley company has achieved so far in terms of building cars.”

        Some people call Tesla a Silicon Valley company. Hopefully you’re not suggesting the i8 is “a far greater technical accomplishment” than the Model S?

        1. Braben says:

          “Some people call Tesla a Silicon Valley company. Hopefully you’re not suggesting the i8 is “a far greater technical accomplishment” than the Model S?”

          Of course it is. BMW (and other manufacturers) could easily build a clone of the Model S. But Tesla cannot build a car like the i8. Tesla has probably the better vision, but their technology isn’t anything special from an engineering perspective.

          1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

            Well, I’m sure BMW appreciates your loyalty, but you’re expressing opinion, not fact.

            If there is any company capable of producing a car that can actually compete with the Model S in the same price range, then let that company start making and selling it. You may note that BMW has never made a car which has garnered so many rave reviews as the Model S, which has repeatedly been described not merely as the best car of the year, but the best car ever made!

            How about the i8? Hmmm… not so much.

            1. Braben says:

              This has nothing to do with “loyalty”. I’m an engineer and just looking at the technology from an engineering perspective. The fact of the matter is that a car like the i8 is far more difficult to build than a Model S, which is a much simpler vehicle.

              What does Tesla have that the other don’t? Please don’t say “batteries”. All of the major car makers have EV designs including large batteries in their drawers ready to go when they think the time is right. Want proof? Look at the battery that Audi uses in the latest R8 e-tron without much fanfare. 90kWh, 150kW fast charging, similar density as Tesla’s. They are absolutely able to build cars like the Model S (or better), but rightly or wrongly they don’t think it makes economic sense for them to do so yet.

              Tesla has two things going for them: A bold vision and a talent for marketing, both via their charismatic CEO.

              1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

                Braben said:

                “This has nothing to do with “loyalty”. I’m an engineer and just looking at the technology from an engineering perspective…

                “What does Tesla have that the other don’t?”

                Braben, thank you very much for your most thoughtful and insightful post. I doubt that I can respond in a manner that will be equal to the high bar you’ve set, but I’ll try.

                I don’t think there’s much point in trying to deconstruct what Tesla has accomplished with the Models S and X. I think it’s the totality, the gestalt, that can only be appreciated by driving one. As an engineer you may not appreciate this, but I think fundamentally what has prompted such enthusiastic response to Tesla’s cars isn’t any one thing, nor any set of things, which one can point at. It’s an emotional reaction, not an intellectual reaction, to a product which (at least according to some) actually brings into reality the potential that driving a motorcar has always offered, but until the Model S never actually delivered.

                A short answer to your question, “What does Tesla have that the other[s] don’t?” can be found at the link below, altho as an engineer you may not appreciate the “touchie-feelie” description of one owner’s response to driving his Model S:

                “What it’s like to own a Tesla Model S — A cartoonist’s review of his magical space car.”

                http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla_model_s

                For a more complete answer… well, just how interested are you in the subject? I found what I consider an absolutely wonderful review of the Model X by two car guys, who have a pro-and-con conversation about the car while driving/riding down the road in it. Now, I hope you don’t think I’m pulling a bait-and-switch here, first talking about the Model S getting such rave reviews, and then switching to the Model X. It’s often hard to give an intellectual explanation for what prompted an emotional reaction, but here’s an exchange between the reviewers which I think may help explain just why the Model S has gotten all those love letters and comments about “best car ever made” from reviewers:

                “…I get in it and we’re sitting here and we drive it and we do all the functions and they just work. — Yeah. — Things just work. It’s fantastic. — It’s intuitive and it’s doing things other people haven’t bothered to worry about for whatever reason.”

                Anyway, if you want to watch the entire 25 minute video, the link is below. Unlike my first link, it’s not a paean of praise for Tesla; there’s a lot of back and forth about what they do, and don’t, like about the Model X. There’s also some discussion of and comparison with the Model S, which is why I don’t think this is a case of “bait and switch”.

                Generally I get impatient with such extended reviews, because there is rarely any good reason for a speech to be more than 15 minutes long. Plus, I can read a lot faster than anybody can talk, so why don’t they just write an article so I can digest the same info in far less time? But in this case, I think it’s worth sitting through, and the well-produced video does give them the chance to show exactly what they’re talking about while they’re talking about it.

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYLJxzDoGmc

              2. PVH says:

                I agree with you but the problem is exactly that, they won’t feel the need to built it.

                In the case of Mercedes for example it is rather problematic as already now on its own turf (Europe) a little silicon valley car maker is causing problems to the sale figures of their flagship car, the class E. Now, in defence of MB, one could argue that Tesla is not behaving fairly as it keeps for many years now selling cars bellow production costs, a practice called “dumping” in the EU (considered illegal in certain conditions) which is rather ironic as usually we see that situation when a giant tries to kick smaller competitors out of a market. Here it is the opposite though using the billions of Wall Street to keep on dumping away, it seems the M3 production is heading the same direction.

      5. Speculawyer says:

        Technical achievement? How about landing a Rocket upright on a barge floating in the Atlantic after delivering a satellite into orbit.

        But as far as Tesla setting up an office, they are not interested in engineers that still work with ICE and transmissions.

    2. PVH says:

      True that natural environment for EV’s are places with harsh speed limits (below or at 65 mph). I believe EV’s will naturally develop along with self driving. I have no problem being in a car moving at 65mph for hours as long as I don’t have to drive it. Now maybe this does not matter to most, my dad can drive at 55mph for hours without any problem, I just slowly but surely become nuts if I try that.

      1. Speculawyer says:

        LOL. You’ve obviously never driven in California.

  8. carcus says:

    I could see apple’s initial sales strategy to be very regional. If they are focused on small, fully autonomous cars, these will be sold in urban dense environments where every street is completely mapped out (and updated — to some extent by the cars themselves) and autonomy is deemed legal.

    So there could be a “city by city” approach, and Europe would seem to be the ideal place to start. (?)

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      The challenge for self-driving cars in a city environment is much greater than driving on a divided highway. That’s why Tesla’s AutoSteer was deployed with a warning to use it only on divided highways.

      1. mr. M says:

        divided highway scenario:
        autonomous driving is like complexity factor 8

        city driving with all kinds of possibilities:
        autonomous driving is like complexity factor 2848

        Just to name a common problem:
        It might be needed for “normal city driving” to detect if there is a person in a parked car and if he intends to open the door soon or not. Otherwise (if the car can not detect persons inside cars and apply psychological rules to motion) the autonomous car will limp beneath all parked cars with a speed of 5mph to prevent accident from suddenly opening doors.

  9. carcus says:

    BTW, the big story here isn’t the “secret German lab”. Cars (and airplanes and refrigerators and just about everything else) today are designed and built buy multiple teams in multiple facilities scattered out all over the world.

    The big news (if the article is to be believed) is that Magna has signed on to build the car and that we have a time frame (2019/20) for production.

  10. Get Real says:

    BTW, Apple better hope that neither Trump or Sanders is elected president because when they announce they are importing a CAR into the US along with their phones/computers (while at the same time exporting their cash into tax havens) they are going to be in for a rude awakening.

    1. carcus says:

      Everything is imported to some degree, the next POTUS ain’t gonna change that …

      “About Magna International
      We are a leading global automotive supplier with 287 manufacturing operations and 81 product development, engineering and sales centres in 29 countries. We have approximately 124,000 employees …”
      http://www.magna.com/media/press-releases-news/releases-news/2015/09/17/news-release—magna-produces-500-000th-mini

      1. carcus says:

        … add, I support the campaign position of negotiating better trade deals. But there’s just nothing simple about it, and the idea that any car (Tesla,Apple, whatever) is going to be 100% US made is completely unrealistic.

        1. Paul Stoller says:

          It won’t have to be 100% made here if the final assembly is done in the US. With high levels of automation that is completely doable. Look at the % US content of what is already built here and none of the major’s is close to 100%

        2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

          Well said, Carcus.

          Not that either Bernie or “The Donald” have much real probability of becoming President, but on the off chance that one of them does, they both need to re-read the Constitution. Especially the sections about separation of powers. They both seem to be confusing the office of President with a dictatorship.

    2. Jacked Beanstalk says:

      Not really. All the US government can do is change the current tarrif/tax structure to incentivize US companies to “insource”. Currently they are rewarded for outsourcing which IMO is bad policy and bad for national security.

      So is Apple in for a “rude awakening”? No, they are in for, at most, a very gradual shift of production back to the US over a few decades. Will this congress pass legislation to make this a reality? Does a bear sh!t in the Vatican?

      1. Counter-Strike Cat says:

        With the free trade agreements, there isn’t much room to install tariffs without violating the agreements.

    3. carcus says:

      .. and one more add — on top of the import/export talk ….

      We still don’t know who’s spending a Billion dollars on a new EV factory out in the Arizona desert.

      1. carcus says:

        Nevada, .. not Arizona

  11. kdawg says:

    Maybe this is why Germany is going with Apple 🙂

    https://youtu.be/Ra7-1Wx4exc

  12. Fabian says:

    Wonder if this is really the new apple/Faraday car:

    http://tinyurl.com/zxz8gna

  13. Mister G says:

    Folks if we want things made in the USA we have to pay more for those things…no more cheap crap…and we all need a pay raise.

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