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An Apple vs Tesla showdown looks increasingly likely

Apple Car

The evidence pointing to Apple’s interest in developing an electric car is immense. As we’ve covered over the past year or so, Apple has hired a large team of engineers and executives in recent months, with expertise across all facets of the car development and manufacturing process. The most recent tidbit signaling Apple’s increased interest in an electric car comes via a Retuers report which claims that the company has begun investigating electric car charging technologies.

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“Apple is investigating how to charge electric cars,” the report notes, and is “talking to charging station companies and hiring engineers with expertise in the area, according to people familiar with the matter and a review of LinkedIn profiles.”

While it remains unclear if Apple is interested in developing its own proprietary charging technology or if it’s looking to play nicely with existing systems, there’s no denying that an expansive charging network is an integral part of the equation if Apple truly wants its rumored electric car to have a chance at success. Indeed, one of the more brilliant things Tesla did was to aggressively roll out a network of Supercharging stations across the country, thereby helping with any concerns of ‘range anxiety.’

More broadly, the news that Apple is already investigating charging technologies serves to show that Apple’s car plans are serious business. It’s strong evidence that Apple’s plans are more than just a simple R&D sketch. After all, you don’t start investigating charging systems unless you’re strongly planning on actually building a car.

Reuters also points to some notable car-related hires Apple has made lately.

Apple has also hired at least four electric vehicle charging specialists, including former BMW employee Rónán Ó Braonáin, who worked on integrating charging infrastructure into home energy systems as well as communication between EVs, BMW and utilities, according a LinkedIn review.

As recently as January Apple hired Nan Liu, an engineer who researched a form of wireless charging for electric vehicles, for instance. Quartz earlier this month reported that Apple had hired former Google charging expert Kurt Adelberger.

Also worth noting is that Apple last month hired an extremely senior Tesla engineer named Chris Porritt who served as Tesla’s VP of Vehicle Engineering. What’s more, you might also remember a report from this past April detailing that Apple has a secret lab in Germany where a team of “progressive thinkers” with vast auto industry experience are busy coming up with new ideas and car-oriented technologies.

Looking ahead, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Apple and Tesla will be the top two players duking it out in the EV space, or at the very least, in the luxury EV space. While more optimistic reports have suggested that an Apple Car will see the light of day by 2019, others believe we may have to wait until 2021 or even a short while after. As for any indication on the matter from Apple, it’s worth highlighting this blurb from Tim Cook earlier this year.

When asked if Apple would spend huge sums of cash on developing a car with no plans to commercialize it, Cook responded:

Well, could we? Yes. But would we? We don’t have to spend large amounts to explore. So I can’t talk about this certain area that you’re talking about. But when we start spending large amounts of money, we’re committed at that point. But we explore things with teams of people. And that’s a part of being curious. Part of exploring technologies and picking the right one is becoming so familiar with it you can see ways that it can be used. And for us, we’ve never been about being first. We’ve been about being best. So we explore many different things, many different technologies. And at first we might not know what product it might wind up in. And then later we’ll see that that really cool technology enables maybe things that we’re doing today to take on something bigger, maybe something new. But once we start spending gobs of money—like when we start spending on tooling and things like that—we’re committed.

And so the waiting game continues.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.