Let’s talk Apple Car Batteries (updated)
To be honest, last week’s rumors on new battery tech making all the difference in Apple Car, caught me off guard. As Reuters reports, claiming sources who saw the battery design, Apple may have groundbreaking new ways to design an EV key component.
It surprised me because I have looked at so many angles of what Apple could bring to the table, focusing of course on design and user experience, but embarrassingly overlooked the energy question – not totally, but I missed the detail, especially when it comes to understanding what Apple could do differently than any other carmaker.
Revisiting the subject, it became clear that battery tech has for decades been something that set Apple apart, starting with iPod, iPhone, iPad and eventually all wearable and portable mobile devices. So why should it be different in the ultimate mobile devices, the car?
Communicating battery design as a USP
One of the major examples of Apple products where the company focused on batteries, is of course the MacBook. First, when it was introduced, the conversation was about battery life.
This never changed and was carried on to other products from iPod to iPhone to Apple Watch, as well. The way Apple designed and shipped batteries in their product line was ensuring one key promise: Enough battery for your use.
For consumer electronics, this was a great selling point. Easy to understand, hard to argue about.
Only with the advent of the MacBook Air, was it that Apple discussed in more detail how it designed batteries inside the machine. That was of course due to the fact, that the MacBook Air was so slim and this was one of its key features.
So, when introducing the 2017 iteration of the MacBook Air, Apple specifically discussed the layered, terraced design of the laptop’s batteries.
Each battery cell would have a distinct contour, making it shaped to the design of the consumer facing product, rather than the other way round.
When Reuters reported that for Apple Car, the company is working on a new mono cell battery design, I was thinking about a similar approach and ambition: Namely a way to make the tech take second priority to the overall design. Which does not mean that the tech needs no innovation. Quite the opposite, probably.
Understanding the physics and logistics of batteries
Frederic of Monday Note worked on a series of articles around the future auto industry, and explained quite well how EV batteries are designed at the moment:
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Among other insights, he shares this detail on Tesla’s battery cells:
Depending on the model, a Tesla contains between 4000 and 7000 of such cells. The whole package weighs about 300 – 500 kg.
I’d like to take a moment to note that the battery itself weighs just the amount where Horace Dediu draws the line in his definition of Micromobility.
The question is, how would that be different in a mono cell design?
First, Elon Musk doesn’t think it is possible:
Certainly, there are a lot of detailed technical issues to be worked out, but in general it can be said that a possible Apple battery for a car would be smaller but weigh more then what is currently on the market.
In case this battery design helps fulfil the overall product vision for what the car should look like and work like in the future, and the additional weight is not a problem for the range or torque of the car, it may be a worthwhile compromise.
In fact, the design of a car could actually be lighter than regular cars because of all the stuff it doesn’t have and doesn’t need:
Apple is said to use Hundai’s E-GMP platform, and possibly make deals with General Motors and PSA/Stellantis as well. Which would make sense, given the necessity to be able to manufacture on each continent where Apple Car will be sold. This cuts shipping times. Also, making deals with three instead of one gives Apple a better hand.