Apple has reappointed former executive Bob Mansfield to manage the technology giant’s efforts to build its first car. A previous member of the firm’s Special Projects team, he will co-ordinate the many Tesla, Ford and GM-sourced engineers and designers hired to work on its first foray into the automotive industry. Read on for full details and check out our renders throughout for our best guess for what it’ll look like. If you can’t wait to get behind the wheel of a new car, use our new car deals page to view the best deals on offer from our trusted network of dealers. If you’re not sure what to buy, our deals pages and car chooser tool are here to help.
Mansfield has been key to the success of many previous Apple projects – he’s played significant roles in the development of numerous MacBook, iPhone and iPad models. He also helped shape the Apple watch – arguably one of the company’s most revolutionary products in recent years.
The Wall Street Journal has stated he will work alongside Apple’s design chief Jony Ive to steer the new car’s development. Once a prototype has been built, testing could take place at a research and development facility in California over the next few years. Prospective buyers may have to wait until 2019 to see the car for themselves, however.
It’s likely the Apple car will be a pure electric vehicle powered by a high-output battery pack – the development of which should help reduce the charge-times and improve the durability of the company’s existing battery-powered products. We expect it will be capable of autonomous driving – similar to features installed on the Tesla Model S saloon and Model X SUV – but specific details haven’t been confirmed.
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Apple Car latest news (updated August 2015)
Rumours that Apple plans to build an all-new autonomous car will be fuelled by the news that the company is searching for a new automotive test base, according to secret correspondence obtained by the Guardian.
The paper’s reporting that high-ranking Apple employees met with officials from the GoMentum Station back in May. It’s a 2,100 acre facility at a former naval base that’s been transformed into a testing facility for autonomous cars.
The latest info comes from correspondence released via a Guardian public access request, in which Apple engineer Frank Fearon seems to indicate that testing of the Apple Car is imminent.
He said: “We would… like to get an understanding of timing and availability for the space, and how we would need to coordinate around other parties who would be using [it].”
The base is guarded around the clock by military personal, which should guarantee the levels of secrecy Apple clearly craves. However, it has yet to used by major automotive manufacturer and, to date, only Honda has registered firm interest by signing a $250,000 memorandum of understanding. The news that Google and Uber (of taxi app fame) are also looking into building autonomous cars is sure to spur Apple on.
Meanwhile, Apple’s chief executive has reportedly met with Fiat–Chrysler’s boss Sergio Marchionne and may have toured BMW’s assembly line for the i3 electric/hybrid car. The company is also said to be on a major recruitment drive snapping up electric car experts from Silicone valley and from major rivals such as Tesla and Mercedes.
The fact Fearon now has a job at Apple tells its own story, too, he previously helped build an electric motorbike for startup company, Lit Motors, and also worked on a robotic paraglider when he studied at the the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Apple Car – all the info
There’s been a lot of noise about the possibility of an Apple car but there’s not been any serious consideration of what the thing could look like, until now. Scroll down for full, un-cropped high-res pictures.
Similar to the launches of other Apple products, our car would be revealed in the company’s preferred style of a keynote speech and presentation style. Below we’ve mocked-up what this could look like – complete with a proud-looking Tim Cook.
We know the company has been pinching key members of staff from rivals Tesla and Ford, so we’ve gone for a Tesla-inspired look with no grille and plenty of aero features to help the electric-powered car cut through the air efficiently – the whole thing is reminiscent of Apple’s Magic Mouse.
That iPhone-white finish comes courtesy of lightweight carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics, as used in the BMW i3 electric car. We’d like to think Apple could apply a dirt-repelling coating into the plastic, keeping it clean without any undue effort from the owner. Those wheels, meanwhile, cut drag and look snazzy – Apple could offer the wheels, like the rest of the car, in silver, gold or space grey, just like the iPhone.
Access to the Apple electric car comes courtesy of a finger-print-reading home button on the driver or front passenger door, and the car is unlocked from the inside by swiping left to right – just like an iDevice.
Slip into the driver’s seat and you’ll not find more high-tech controls this side of the Starship Enterprise. Your iPhone docks directly into the centre console and simultaneously energises a massive display that takes up two thirds of the dashboard. It has a huge map display and also hot buttons for instant app access. The right-hand screen, meanwhile, can stream live video to passengers.
A third central display runs along the bottom of the windscreen helpfully subtitling instructions from Siri, and more traditional sat-nav car system controls can be accessed using the rotary controller, based on the controls for the upcoming Apple Watch.
Engine and driving
The Apple car won’t be using any dirty, pollutant-emitting combustion engines – that’s not the company’s style. Instead, it’ll use an electric powertrain using know-how from its own battery division and insight from designers swiped from Tesla.
Like many of its other products, the Apple car will be offered in a range of power outputs and battery capacities. The largest batteries will need to do comfortably more than 300 miles to a charge to bring buyers in but more basic units should have around a 120-mile range. Recharge times should be competitive assuming Apple doesn’t decide to offer battery swapping capabilities for instant replenishing of power. The motor, like the batteries, will be offered in a variety of outputs. Basic models could get a modest output of around 120hp but more powerful versions could have well over 200hp to keep speed freaks happy. Whatever power output it ends up getting, the Apple car will accelerate briskly thanks to the instant torque of electric motors.
Will the Apple car get built?
Latest reports are saying the new Apple car could be with us by 2020, which would allow it to compete with electric models from Tesla and a host of mainstream manufacturers.
Five years to build an all-new model is ambitious, especially when the builder has no past experience manufacturing cars, but then who would bet against Apple and its nigh-on bottomless pockets?
And the price?
Who knows for sure, but with Tesla selling the upmarket (and blindingly quick) Model S for a shade over £50,000 it’s hard to imagine Apple not following suit, or even undercutting its home-grown rival. Feasible considering the company’s expertise with battery technology, touchscreen interfaces and its huge presence on high streets around the world, all of which helps rein in overheads.
The sketches below show how our designer got to the renders above. Think we’re on the money or miles off? Let us know in the comments below!