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Exclusive: Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes ‘next level’ battery technology – sources

Apple Inc is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

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(Reuters) – Apple Inc is moving forward with self-driving car technology and is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The iPhone maker’s automotive efforts, known as Project Titan, have proceeded unevenly since 2014 when it first started to design its own vehicle from scratch. At one point, Apple drew back the effort to focus on software and reassessed its goals. Doug Field, an Apple veteran who had worked at Tesla Inc, returned to oversee the project in 2018 and laid off 190 people from the team in 2019.

Since then, Apple has progressed enough that it now aims to build a vehicle for consumers, two people familiar with the effort said, asking not to be named because Apple’s plans are not public. Apple’s goal of building a personal vehicle for the mass market contrasts with rivals such as Alphabet Inc’s Waymo, which has built robo-taxis to carry passengers for a driverless ride-hailing service.

Central to Apple’s strategy is a new battery design that could “radically” reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle’s range, according to a third person who has seen Apple’s battery design.

Apple declined to comment on its plans or future products.

Making a vehicle represents a supply chain challenge even for Apple, a company with deep pockets that makes hundreds of millions of electronics products each year with parts from around the world, but has never made a car. It took Elon Musk’s Tesla 17 years before it finally turned a sustained profit making cars.

“If there is one company on the planet that has the resources to do that, it’s probably Apple. But at the same time, it’s not a cellphone,” said a person who worked on Project Titan.

It remains unclear who would assemble an Apple-branded car, but sources have said they expect the company to rely on a manufacturing partner to build vehicles. And there is still a chance Apple will decide to reduce the scope of its efforts to an autonomous driving system that would be integrated with a car made by a traditional automaker, rather than the iPhone maker selling an Apple-branded car, one of the people added.

Two people with knowledge of Apple’s plans warned pandemic-related delays could push the start of production into 2025 or beyond.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Apple Inc logo is seen hanging at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo/File Photo

Shares of Tesla ended 6.5% lower on Monday after their debut in the S&P 500 on Monday. Apple shares ended 1.24% higher after the news.

Apple has decided to tap outside partners for elements of the system, including lidar sensors, which help self-driving cars get a three-dimensional view of the road, two people familiar with the company’s plans said.

Apple’s car might feature multiple lidar sensors for scanning different distances, another person said. Some sensors could be derived from Apple’s internally developed lidar units, that person said. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro and iPad Pro models released this year both feature lidar sensors.

Reuters had previously reported that Apple had held talks with potential lidar suppliers, but it was also examining building its own sensor.

As for the car’s battery, Apple plans to use a unique “monocell” design that bulks up the individual cells in the battery and frees up space inside the battery pack by eliminating pouches and modules that hold battery materials, one of the people said.

Apple’s design means that more active material can be packed inside the battery, giving the car a potentially longer range. Apple is also examining a chemistry for the battery called LFP, or lithium iron phosphate, the person said, which is inherently less likely to overheat and is thus safer than other types of lithium-ion batteries.

”It’s next level,” the person said of Apple’s battery technology. “Like the first time you saw the iPhone.”

Apple had previously engaged Magna International Inc in talks about manufacturing a car, but the talks petered out as Apple’s plans became unclear, a person familiar with those previous efforts said. Magna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

To turn a profit, automotive contract manufacturers often ask for volumes that could pose a challenge even to Apple, which would be a newcomer to the automotive market.

“In order to have a viable assembly plant, you need 100,000 vehicles annually, with more volume to come,” the person said.

Some Apple investors reacted to the Reuters report on the company’s plans with caution. Trip Miller, managing partner at Apple investor Gullane Capital Partners, said it could be tough for Apple to produce large volumes of cars out of the gate.

“It would seem to me that if Apple develops some advanced operating system or battery technology, it would be best utilized in a partnership with an existing manufacturer under license,” Miller said. “As we see with Tesla and the legacy auto companies, having a very complex manufacturing network around the globe doesn’t happen overnight.”

Hal Eddins, chief economist at Apple shareholder Capital Investment Counsel, said Apple has a history of higher margins than most automakers.

“My initial reaction as a shareholder is, huh?” Eddins said. “Still don’t really see the appeal of the car business, but Apple may be eyeing another angle than what I’m seeing.”

Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco, Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; and Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Jonathan Weber, Edward Tobin and Sonya Hepinstall

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Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-apple-autos-exclusive/exclusive-apple-targets-car-production-by-2024-and-eyes-next-level-battery-technology-sources-idUSKBN28V2PY

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Reuters

U.S. ready to lift many sanctions but Iran wants more – top Iran nuclear delegate

The United States has expressed its readiness to lift many of its sanctions on Iran at the Vienna nuclear talks but Tehran is demanding more, top Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi told state media on Friday.

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Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, attends a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, September 1, 2020. European Commission EbS – EEAS/Handout via REUTERS

The United States has expressed its readiness to lift many of its sanctions on Iran at the Vienna nuclear talks but Tehran is demanding more, top Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi told state media on Friday.

“The information transferred to us from the U.S. side is that they are also serious on returning to the nuclear deal and they have so far declared their readiness to lift a great part of their sanctions,” Araqchi told state TV.

“But this is not adequate from our point of view and therefore the discussions will continue until we get to all our demands,” Araqchi said.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/us-ready-lift-many-sanctions-iran-wants-more-top-iran-nuclear-delegate-2021-05-07/

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Reuters

U.S. Commerce Dept. pressing Taiwan to supply more chips to U.S. automakers

The U.S. Commerce Department is pressing Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (2330.TW) and other Taiwanese firms to prioritize the needs of U.S. automakers to ease chip shortages in the near term, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday.

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The logo of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) is pictured at its headquarters, in Hsinchu, Taiwan, Jan. 19, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang

The U.S. Commerce Department is pressing Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (2330.TW) and other Taiwanese firms to prioritize the needs of U.S. automakers to ease chip shortages in the near term, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday.

Raimondo told a Council of the Americas event that longer term, increased investment was needed to produce more semiconductors in the United States and that other critical supply chains needed re-shoring, including to allied countries.

“We’re working hard to see if we can get the Taiwanese and TSMC, which is a big company there, to, you know, prioritize the needs of our auto companies since there’s so many American jobs on the line,” Raimondo said in response to a question from a General Motors Co (GM.N) executive.

“As I said, there’s not a day goes by that we don’t push on that,” she said, adding the medium- and long-term solution would be “simply making more chips in America.”

TSMC said that addressing the shortage remained its top priority.

“TSMC has been working with all parties to alleviate the automotive chip supply shortage, we understand it is a shared concern of the worldwide automotive industry,” it said in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday.

TSMC CEO C.C. Wei said last month the company had worked with its customers since January to reallocate more capacity to support the auto industry, but the shortage had worsened due to a snowstorm in Texas and a fab manufacturing disruption in Japan.

Wei expected the chip shortage for its auto clients to be greatly reduced from the next quarter.

The Commerce Department is planning a high-level meeting with automakers set to take place next week on the chip shortage issue, said officials briefed on the matter. A Commerce Department spokesman declined to comment.

United Auto Workers Legislative Director Josh Nassar said in written testimony for a U.S. House hearing on Wednesday that the chips shortage has resulted in the layoffs of “tens of thousands of workers … Clearly, we need to bolster domestic production of automotive-quality semiconductors.”

Last week, Ford Motor Co (F.N) warned the chips shortage may slash second-quarter production by half, cost it about $2.5 billion and about 1.1 million units of lost production in 2021.

GM said on Friday it would extend production halts at several North American factories because of the shortage.

On April 12, Biden convened semiconductor and auto industry executives to discuss solutions to the chip crisis. He backs $50 billion to support U.S. chip manufacturing and research.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/technology/us-commerce-dept-pressing-taiwan-supply-more-chips-us-automakers-2021-05-04/

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Reuters

India’s daily COVID-19 cases pass 400,000 for first time as second wave worsens

India recorded more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Saturday as it battles a devastating second wave, and the country’s massive new vaccination drive was hampered in some areas by shortages of the shots.

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India recorded more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Saturday as it battles a devastating second wave, and the country’s massive new vaccination drive was hampered in some areas by shortages of the shots.

Authorities reported 401,993 new cases in the previous 24 hours, after 10 consecutive days of more than 300,000 daily cases. Deaths jumped by 3,523, taking the country’s total toll to 211,853, according to the federal health ministry.

The surge in infections has overwhelmed hospitals, morgues and crematoriums and left families scrambling for scarce medicines and oxygen. And while India is the world’s biggest producer of COVID-19 vaccines, shortages of the shots in some states hindered the opening of vaccinations for all adults.

West Bengal state was unable to start a drive aimed at adults aged between 18 and 45 due to a shortage of shots and urged the federal government to provide more supplies, a senior state health official said, declining to be named as he was not authorised to speak with media.

Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the hard-hit state of Delhi on Friday urged people not to queue at vaccination centres, promising more vaccines would arrive “tomorrow or the day after”.

Eastern Odisha state said on Friday it had received a consignment of 150,000 shots but would only allow a few people to get shots due to lockdown restrictions preventing movement.

In Ahmedabad, the main commercial city in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, hundreds of people lined up for their shots.

“I took my first dose and I am appealing to all students to take the vaccine and be safe,” said Raj Shah, a 27-year-old student in the city.

India has received 150,000 Sputnik-V vaccine doses from Russia and millions more doses will follow, an Indian foreign ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

DELHI STILL GASPING

Shortages of medical oxygen have plagued the medical system.

In New Delhi’s Batra Hospital, local media reported that eight people including a doctor died on Saturday after the facility ran out of oxygen.

“Delhi required 976 tonnes of oxygen and yesterday only 312 tonnes of oxygen was given. How does Delhi breathe in such a low oxygen?” chief minister Kejriwal tweeted.

At a hearing on Saturday, the Delhi high court took note of the deaths at Batra Hospital and told the federal government to make arrangements for the allocated supply of oxygen to be given to Delhi.

Manisha Bashu presses the chest of her father, who is suffering from breathing problem, after he felt unconscious while receiving oxygen support for free at a Gurudwara (Sikh temple), amidst the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ghaziabad, India, April 30, 2021. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

“Enough is enough,” Justice Vipin Sanghi said.

The federal government’s counsel told the court: “We are doing maximum to what human limit can go.”

Desperate coronavirus patients continued to arrive at hospitals despite a shortage of beds.

Gasping for air, 62-year-old Vijay Gupta was turned away by Holy Family hospital, a non-profit private facility in the southeast of the capital, as all of its 385 beds were full.

His family and friends debated what to do try next.

“We have been roaming around since 6 a.m. looking for a bed,” said Gupta’s friend Rajkumar Khandelwal. “Where shall we go?”

A fire in a hospital about 190 km (115 miles) south of Ahmedabad killed 16 coronavirus patients and two staff, the latest in a series of deadly accidents at hospitals. read more

The Delhi government said it will extend for another seven days a lockdown it first imposed for a week on April 19.

WARNING SIGNS IGNORED

Daily infections have soared since the start of April. Some experts blame mass religious gatherings and political rallies for the severity of India’s second wave, which caught the government unprepared.

A forum of scientific advisers set up by the Modi administration warned officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant taking hold in the country, five scientists who are part of the forum told Reuters. read more

Four of the scientists said that despite the warning, the federal government did not seek to impose major restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. Millions, largely unmasked, attended religious gatherings and election rallies that were held by Modi, leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and opposition politicians.

The surge in India has come as many countries are seeing the pandemic ease.

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday banned most travel from India in restrictions that will take effect from Tuesday. read more

Other countries and territories have also imposed travel restrictions on India, including Australia, Britain, Germany, Italy and Singapore. Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand have suspended all commercial travel with India. read more

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Eastern Odisha state said on Friday it had received a consignment of 150,000 shots but would only allow a few people to get shots due to lockdown restrictions preventing movement.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/india-posts-record-daily-rise-covid-19-cases-401993-2021-05-01/

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