Upcoming Apple car previewed – what we know so far
Fresh rumours have linked Hyundai to Apple's long-planned car project, but what could such a car look like, and what technology will it come with?...
When tech giant Apple enters a new market, it’s bound to shake things up. Whether it’s portable MP3 players, smartphones or laptops, the Apple badge is coveted around the world, and soon the brand could take another huge leap into a new sector – cars.
Rumours around Apple either making its own car or partnering with an established manufacturer to build one on its behalf have been around since at least 2014, but fresh flames have been stoked in recent days after Hyundai confirmed it was in early-stage discussion about collaborating with Apple on a new car.
In a statement sent to the Financial Times newspaper, Hyundai initially confirmed that the two companies were “in discussions, but as it is at an early stage, nothing has been decided.” Following this news, shares in the Korean car brand shot up by more than 20% overnight, and valuations of Hyundai rose by £6.5bn – showing the potential surge which comes with Apple’s backing. However, Hyundai has since revised its statement, noting that it was in talks with “various companies” around the development of new self-driving cars, but did not name Apple directly. Apple itself has yet to comment.
A report published by a Korean news service that is understood to be part-owned by Hyundai claims that Apple’s long-awaited car will be ready to launch in 2027, and that the tech giant has partnered with Hyundai to help develop the car and to use its battery technology. This timescale is corroborated by reports in Bloomberg, which cite those close to the project as saying that Apple will take “at least half a decade” to launch its car. This timeline is shifting, however – as recently as late December, Reuters reported that an Apple car could be available to purchase as soon as 2024.
Hyundai has already shown that it can produce good electric cars with long ranges – indeed, the Kona Electric small SUV has the longest range of any car we’ve put through our Real Range test, at 259 miles. Hyundai is known to be developing new underpinnings for its own next-generation electric cars, too, which will be capable of travelling more than 310 miles between charges. Such cars will also be capable of charging at speeds of up to 270kW, the same as the current Porsche Taycan (above), which can manage a 10-80% charge in as little as 20 minutes – faster than a Tesla Model S using one of the brand's Superchargers.
Apple is known for secrecy when it comes to launching new products, with details and images only surfacing a short time before a new product is ready, and even then usually only via leaks in the media. Companies working with Apple are usually required to sign strict non-disclosure agreements to ensure secrecy.
Apple’s anticipated launch into the electric car market is big news; any model coming from the US giant would pose significant threat to every other established car maker. Tesla, however, would appear to be Apple’s closest rival initially, having itself built a reputation for launching premium electric cars with cutting edge self-driving technology. Indeed, Tesla has been likened to Apple many times over the years. Even the biggest car makers will be watching closely, though – in 2019, Volkswagen boss Herbert Diess said that by 2030, when the UK government is due to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, the biggest car companies could conceivably be Tesla and Apple.
Apple’s move to partner with an established car marker could turn out to be a smart one, since building cars is an expensive business, and requires lots of additional investment in the supply chain to work. By effectively paying Hyundai to build cars on its behalf, Apple misses out on these additional costs and, potentially, could sell its cars at a lower price to consumers as a result. Apple already has previous experience doing this – the company has an existing partnership with Taiwanese company Foxconn to build iPhones and iPads.
These latest reports also suggest that the scope of Apple’s ambitions in the car market may have grown. Previously, it was thought that rather than launching its own car, Apple might instead develop its own advanced self-driving system which it could then sell to other vehicle manufacturers. It now appears that Apple will use the system as a unique selling point on its own car.
Bloomberg reports suggest that Apple’s software could let users input their destination and then be driven there “ with little to no engagement,” depending on local laws and regulations. Tesla’s existing Autopilot software can handle some functions of automated driving, including keeping the car in its own lane on the motorway, as well as accelerating, braking, steering and changing lanes by itself, although drivers are required to remain alert, and can’t take their hands off the wheel for an extended period of time. Perhaps showing Apple’s dedication to the project, its core engineering team is made up of several high-ranking engineers from Tesla.
What would an Apple car look like?
Any Apple car is likely to be built with the city in mind, so is expected to take the form of a family hatchback, as seen in our artists’ rendering (below). With a tall profile and fairly box-like shape, Apple could look to maximise interior space, and thus appeal to growing families with its new car.
LED lights are likely to feature at the front and rear and, this being Apple, the latest technologies including camera feeds replacing traditional door mirrors – as seen on the Audi E-tron and Honda E – are certain. Expect the Apple logo to feature prominently at the front and rear, but also leaving room for extensive customisation with colour packs and paint options – just like consumers can with its existing products, Apple will want buyers to truly make their car their own.
Just as Volkswagen has done with its own ID.3 electric hatchback, expect the Apple car to be available with a variety of different power options, with versions comprising single and dual motors, and front and four-wheel drive, allowing owners to prioritise either range or performance. Speaking of range, up to 300 miles on a single charge should be possible by the time the Apple car goes on sale in 2027.
Inside, Apple is likely to use a minimalist dashboard design, with everything presented on a digital instrument cluster and iPad-esque centre console display. Indeed, the cheapest versions of the Apple Car could, conceivably, allow owners to use their iPhones and iPads as displays on the car. A feature-rich infotainment system based on Apple CarPlay is likely and, as you may guess, there will be no Android Auto functionality.
Although a steering wheel is expected to feature for legal reasons, Bloomberg reports suggest that Apple’s engineers have been tasked “trying to re-imagine a car’s interior for a future in which people ride passively rather than steer”. This suggests that the steering wheel may retract into the dashboard when not in use. In terms of seating, Apple is expected to offer conventional seating for five, plus space for luggage in a boot that is at least as large as today’s electric hatchbacks.
Prices for the Apple Car are still a long way from being set, but the company is not afraid to charge a premium price for its products. And with the firm’s entry into the car market likely to be seen as big news on a global scale, expect to pay handsomely for the privilege of driving an Apple-branded car.