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123 Systems

Apple Electric Car? B*ll*cks !

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 10:09 -- Gerry Woolf

Short of a definitive announcement from the company, you can take all the stories about Apple coming up with electric car any time soon as total bollocks and a figment of a flaccid and useless mainstream press adding up one and one and making it 27.

'Poaching' a few execs from the once bright hope of A123 Systems is hardly an indicator:  A company whose existence is now so perilously dependent on batteries would be foolish not to beef up its electrochemical knowledge base and the breakthroughs needed are more likely to come in the area of thin film batteries, which are showing the kind of promise needed for electronic 'wearables'.

A company which is still clearly a 'one man band' in the form of the departed Steve Jobs has not come up with anything more remarkable than size variants on the device which he once envisaged— the iPhone.  And make no mistake, here at ESPL, we’re Apple fans, having got this business off the ground on Apple’s desktop computers which are easy to use, easy to customise and downright reliable.

Jobs was bold, but I don’t think even this far sighted soul would have been audacious enough to take on the extremely difficult task of improving battery energy density, life and cost— even with the US$160 billion cash pile Apple currently has.

And I’ve never seen an Apple delegate on the lists of recent battery events (though I did meet a guy from Google (not that they needed to come)).

The apocryphal tales of how Jobs and friends came up with the iPhone concept are well known, and not difficult to imagine. More than a decade ago, they pulled out their keyboard-driven devices from their pockets and collectively thought 'these are crap' —unwieldy interfaces and little extendable functionality (no apps).

One suspects the deceased Jobs and the effete Sir Jonathon Ive would have remarkable respect for today’s auto engineers and designers.  Any fool watching automobile ads in the USA and elsewhere could identify a key theme— more and more safety, which means more and more sensors, more electronics and a role for firms like Apple, Google and though its painful to say— Microsoft—to pull it all together.

But building a new electric drivetrain? The salutary lessons already being learned by the German auto industry should be enough— working on your own does not bring the performance and productivity gains you need to make affordable and saleable electric vehicles to the masses. And a lot of the problem still lays in the electrochemistry— the fundamentals— not the batteries, which are based on applied understanding. Read our write ups of the European AABC meeting in Mainz and the US Nattbat meeting in Phoenix in the Spring issue of BEST and judge for yourself— click here for a paid subscription, it's very affordable battery knowledge you need.

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