Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) will have an electric Apple Car or iCar on the road as a competitor to Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) within two years as it nears agreement on a manufacturing partnership with Hyundai and Kia.
Following the tech titan’s years developing a self-driving electric vehicle (EV), it is now close to a US$3.6bn deal with the South Korean carmaker, according to news reports emanating from Asia.
The Cupertino, California company could also licence production of the car to other manufacturers, but some reports suggest that Hyundai is keen on an exclusive deal.
Apple aims to initially roll out 100,000 cars per year, Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo said, with the potential to expand this to 400,000 depending on demand.
Hyundai confirmed last month that it was in talks, but said, “as it is early stage, nothing has been decided”.
The Apple-branded EV would be made at the Kia Motors assembly plant in Georgia, USA, CNBC reported. Kia is part-owned by Hyundai.
Comments from one Apple analysts suggest that using Hyundai’s E-GMP electric vehicle platform would give the car an impressive range of at least 300 miles on a full charge, with the ability to power up the battery to 80% within 18 minutes.
To lead the development of the car, the iPhone and Macbook maker has apparently hired the head of the development of the Porsche’s electric Taycan.
Apple and Kia plan to sign a deal at the end of February, according to Korean media, with the US company investing 4trn won (US$3.6bn) for a portion of the Kia plant in Georgia.
It is possible that the 2024 start date could be pushed back, the report from Dong-A said.
EV sales rise
The news emerged as data was published on vehicle sales in Europe and the UK, showing continued growth of electric and plug-in hybrid cars.
While UK sales remain severely depressed by the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, sales of pure battery electric vehicles were up 54% in January and those of plug-in hybrids were up 28%, however both types saw just around 6k sold, remaining a niche portion of the UK market, compared to around 22k of various ‘milder’ types of hybrid and 56k petrol and diesel models.
Last year, UK sales of EVs surpass diesel vehicles for the first time.
Over in the European Union, data showed sales in 2020 of electric and plug-in hybrid nearly trebled to more than 1mln.
EVs and plug-in hybrids accounted for more than a tenth of overall sales, data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) showed.
Overall, car sales in the bloc fell 24% to 9.9mln because of the effect of lockdowns on demand, though the ACEA is forecasting a 10% increase for 2021.
With car sales hit hard by the pandemic, the rise in EVs was a reason for optimism, said EY automotive specialist David Borland.
“The continued rise and popularity of electric vehicles is the silver lining for the industry, with positive sales helping the UK achieve its net zero targets.
“Battery electric vehicles ended last year +185% year-on-year sales, with plug-in hybrid electric vehicles registering +91%.
“If one considers that this performance occurred during a year that was -29% down on overall sales, then this is one aspect of the sector to feel genuinely optimistic about. It’s clear we are seeing significant shifts in the direction of travel for consumers towards electric vehicles and January saw this trend continue.”