Will Apple Make Electric Cars?

My wife and I really enjoy driving our Ford C-Max Energi.  It’s the focus of this site.  However, it is really interesting to me that in the past few days, there’s been publications in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters and 9to5Mac about Apple creating a large team of employees working on an electric minivan.

The Wall Street Journal first reported this less than a week ago on February 13th.  According to the Journal, Apple is designing an electric minivan.  The car project lead is Steve Zadesky, a former Ford Engineer, who lead teams to create the iPod and iPhone.  The Journal said Mr Zadeskey was given the permission to create a 1,000-person team.  The Journal also said Apple hired Johann Jungwirth, who was the former president and chief executive of Mercedes-Benz Research and Development in North America.

Reuters published an article the next day, February 14th, that added Apple was working on self-driving and autonomous-driving electric cars.  It also said that Apple is recruiting experts in robotics.

Today, Bloomberg reports that Apple wants to start production of an electric car as early as 2020.  The article said that A123, a battery maker for electric vehicles, sued Apple because it is “poaching” their employees.  According to the lawsuit, this aggressive campaign to hire their employees started in June 2014.  The lawsuit also claimed, “Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123.”  The hiring of A123 employees started with former Ford engineer, Mujeeb Ijaz, who founded A123’s Venture Technology division researching materials, battery cells, and advanced concepts.  After starting at Apple in June, he hired other A123 employees according to Bloomberg.  Bloomberg also noted that Tesla’s Elon Musk complained this month about Apple offering $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases to hire away Tesla’s employees.

Also today, 9to5Mac reports many new hires at Apple.  Robert Gough, started in January from a company designing safety systems including airbags, radar and night vision.  David Nelson, a Tesla engineer that left and started at Apple this month.  At Tesla, he served as a mechanical engineer leading a team responsible for modeling, prediction and verification of motor and gearbox performance and efficiency.  Pete Augenbergs, an Apple employee since 2008 that formerly worked for Tesla, is a product design manager on the team.  Hugh Jay, a transmission and mechanical design engineer.  New hire, John Ireland, was a senior power train test engineer at Tesla since October 2013.  Previously, he worked for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on battery technologies to improve energy storage. Another new hire is David Perner, a Ford engineer that worked on “hybrid vehicle calibration, new vehicle launch, design and release…”  Perner worked on an upcoming hybrid Ford F-150.  9to5Mac reported the details of many more new hires on the Apple vehicle team.

The hybrid and plug-in vehicle market is definitely getting interesting.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying our Ford C-Max Energi.

How fast will EV (PHEV, EREV, BEV, etc) cars be adopted?

In late September, Toyota announced that it stopped widespread sales of EV vehicles.  It plans on selling less than 1,000 RAV4 electrics over the next three years.  They had planned on selling the eQ electric minicar, but now plan on selling just hundred in a limited release.  Toyota said it would emphasize traditional hybrid vehicles.  It plans to include a hybrid drivetrain option for 21 different models.  Toyota planned on selling more than 35,000 Prius plug-in hybrids in Japan in 2012.  They have only sold 8,400, according to the Reuters article on September 24th, 2012.  Nissan is forecasting 10% of sales will be plug-in vehicles by 2020.  According to an article at plugincars.com, 85% of Toyota dealers agreed with Toyota’s decision to drop plug-in vehicles and emphasize hybrid models.

Reading my blog, it is clear I’m more optimistic.  I think the Prius plug-in was poorly implemented.  The Ford C-Max Energi may outsell the C-Max hybrid, even though Ford believes it will only account for a small percent of C-Max sales.  Is Toyota missing an opportunity?  Will Ford or other companies leap-frog Toyota by producing more energy-efficient vehicles?  Perhaps it is still too early for EV vehicles.  With the current tax credits and discounts on leases, Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts are competitive or even less expensive for cost of ownership than traditional (ICE) vehicles.   It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.

Ford C-MAX Energi

2013 Ford C-MAX Energi

 

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Will the C-Max Energi be successful?

2013 Ford C-Max Energi

The 2013 Ford C-Max Energi is Ford’s first PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle).

There is an interesting Ph.D. dissertation by Baha Mohammed Al-Alawi at Colorado State University entitled, “Techno-economic analysis and decision making for PHEV benefits to society, consumers, policymakers and automakers.”  There is a lot in this dissertation but in the conclusion it states that Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles with 20 miles of electric range (PHEVs such as the C-Max Energi) are more cost effective than conventional hybrids (such as the Prius or C-Max) or ones with larger battery storage with a 60-mile range.  In addition, it states that the only way for automakers to meet the new CAFE standards is with PHEVs.  If this conclusion is correct, the C-Max Energi appears to be positioned well in the marketplace.

Here’s the relevant statements in the conclusion, “The results of phase I analysis (Chapter Three) showed that in many vehicle classes, PHEVs [Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles such as the C-Max Energi] with 20 miles of electric vehicle range [the range of the C-Max Energi] have a lower cost of CAFE compliance than both grid-independent HEVs [Hybrids, such as the Prius] and PHEVs with 60 miles of electric vehicle range.  The baseline results show that in both the passenger car and light truck fleets, PHEVs have a lower cost of compliance with CAFE regulations than conventional HEVs. [Page 143] … Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles combine a reduction in air emission damages and oil dependency with economic benefits to consumers. HEVs can increase the fleet fuel economy but PHEVs are the most economically efficient vehicle to meet the proposed footprint CAFE standards for both passenger car and light truck fleets. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle are found to be the most successful technology to be able to meet the proposed footprint CAFE standards over the next few years. A scenario without high PHEV technology cannot increase the US fleets fuel economy to meet the required footprint CAFE standards. To double the average fuel economy of new US cars and light trucks by 2030, PHEV technology must be considered. Our analysis show that low HEV, high HEV and medium HEV/PHEV scenario will increase the U.S. new vehicles sales CAFE but cannot double the U.S. fleet fuel economy to meet the proposed footprint CAFE over the period of 2010 to 2030 [Page 145-146].” The text in square brackets and the bold type was added for clarification and emphasis.

 

 

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