Amid speculation that Apple was intent on designing and manufacturing its own branded car, word surfaced last September that Apple was completely “rethinking” its strategy in the automotive space. What followed after that were a number of layoffs and a shift of focus, with reports indicating that Apple was abandoning its designs on manufacturing a car in favor of working on specific auto-related technologies. To this point, Tim Cook last month essentially confirmed Apple’s interest in researching AI systems for self-driving cars.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said when asked about Apple’s automotive ambitions. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” Cook later added that figuring out self driving cars amounts to “the mother of all AI projects.”

As it turns out, Apple’s interest in researching automotive technologies extends beyond AI. According to a new report from Yicai Global (via MacRumors), Apple has an ongoing and somewhat secret R&D project focusing on designing batteries for electric cars. Apple is said to be working with Contemporary Amperex Technology, a China-based company that specializes in designing, developing and packging lithium-ion batteries. The company’s website boasts that it is the “world’s leading producer and innovator of lithium-ion batteries.”

Yicai’s report reads in part:

The company is secretly working with a Chinese battery manufacturer on automotive battery research and development, which indicates that the firm’s car project involves not only software but also hardware, Yicai Global has learned.

While I’m still skeptical that Apple will ever design and manufacture an Apple branded car, it remains clear that Apple is still trying to figure out a way to come up with a technology whereby it can differentiate itself from a crowded field of sophisticated players. That said, it makes sense that Apple would be interested in researching EV battery technology as EV range will likely become a key differentiator among car manufacturers once EVs gain a stronger foothold in the mainstream.

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