Mike Ramsey, for the WSJ, in an article titled Auto Industry’s Ranks of Electric-Car Battery Suppliers Narrow:
Few companies so far have shown they can meet the challenge of building advanced batteries with the quality, weight and cost expectations that auto makers demand. And the technology is moving so fast that few auto makers have tried to master the exotic chemistry required.
Few companies indeed. I anticipate, though, that if Apple builds a car, it will seek to control the battery chemistry. In a car, this would give Apple the ability to control these types of factors*:
- Design: Size, shape, construction of the battery compartment. This, in turn, can affect the weight, size, and handling of the car.
- Performance: Range, battery longevity, power available for supporting systems, etc. These directly affect user experience, enjoyment, anxiety, and even safety.
- Cost: Ability to reduce chemistry, manufacturing, recycling, and other costs.
To a limited degree, Apple customizes its battery chemistry today, in its laptops and other mobile devices. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if Apple pursues more intense customization (i.e., in-house technology) in the case of auto batteries.
With regard to smartphones, it’s frequently said that users won’t notice a battery improvement unless it’s 2X – 10X better than existing technology. With electric cars (and presumably Apple’s would be), even a 1.25X improvement (e.g., from 400 miles to 500) is very meaningful, especially if recharging infrastructure rollout lags car production.
Simply put, in entering a new industry where even modest differences in battery performance could matter, Apple has more incentive to innovate. That said, even if Apple does design or very heavily customize its own batteries, it might not do so with the first version of the Apple car. That will depend Apple’s overall priorities for the car.