Automaker Kia is Said to Be Reviewing Plans to Build EVs with Multiple Firms, Hinting at Ongoing Talks with Tech Giant Apple
【Summary】South Korean automaker Kia Motors Corp. is reportedly reviewing plans from multiple foreign firms to work together on building self-driving electric cars, Reuters reported on Wednesday. In addition, Kia’s parent, Hyundai Motor Group, has decided that its Kia brand would be in charge of any proposed cooperation with Apple on electric cars, the sources said.
South Korean automaker Kia Corp. is reviewing plans from multiple foreign firms to work together on building self-driving electric cars, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Kia's most recent comment was included in a regulatory filing. It came after local online publication Edaily reported late on Tuesday that Kia's parent, Hyundai Motor Group, had decided that its Kia brand would be in charge of any proposed cooperation with Apple on electric cars. The report cited unnamed industry sources.
The news report caused Kia's shares to surge nearly 20% in Seoul. Shares of Kia's sister company Hyundai Motor Co jumped nearly 25%.
However in its regulatory filing Kia did not name Apple as a possible partner and declined to comment. Apple also declined to comment on the rumors, but in December Hyundai confirmed the plans in a statement.
"Apple and Hyundai are in discussion, but as it is early stage, nothing has been decided," the automaker said.
The automaker was thrust into the global spotlight in December and again earlier this month after rumors began swirling that the automaker's parent Hyundai was in talks with computer giant Apple Inc. to jointly develop an electric car. The reports said that Apple was moving forward with its secretive self-driving car project and was aiming to produce a passenger vehicle as early as 2024 that could include advanced battery technology developed by the iPhone maker.
Apple's secretive EV project is code-named "Project Titan".
Apple's electric vehicle will include a new battery design that could "radically" reduce the cost of batteries and increase the vehicle's range, according to a source that spoke to Reuters that has seen Apple's battery design.
According to the source, 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 individual modules, giving the car a potentially longer range.
Rumors have been floating around Silicon Valley for the past five years that Apple was working on an electric, autonomous capable vehicle, but Apple has managed to keep details of its self-driving car development under tight control, so little is known about the project to outsiders.
But as a technology company, Apple is seeking the cooperation of an established automaker to move forward with its plans.
In 2017, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at the company's plans when he referred to Apple's efforts to develop an electric vehicle as the "Mother of all AI projects".
A year later, Cook said that Apple was working on some type of autonomous driving system without elaborating.
"We're focusing on autonomous systems," Cook said in 2018.
"It's probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on. Autonomy is something that's incredibly exciting for us and we'll see where it takes us."
Also in 2018, Apple filed a patent application for an augmented-reality windshield to display data that might eliminate the need for a traditional dashboard.
Over the years, there have been occasional sightings of one of Apple's unmarked Lexus RX450h SUVs on public roads in Cupertino, CA near Apple's Silicon Valley headquarters. The Lexus SUV was outfitted with roof-mounted cameras, radar, and lidar sensors, presumably for autonomous driving.
As one of the world's most valuable companies with a market cap of over $2.2 trillion, Apple definitely has the money to fully-fund Project Titan, but without a factory or automotive industry partner building a completely new vehicle from scratch would be a monumental challenge for any company, regardless of how much money that's in the bank. So the talks with Kia hold some weight, even though they are still speculative.
"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," a person who worked on Project Titan told Reuters.
In September 2020, Kia announced its own electrification plans over the next seven years. Kia Motors president and CEO, Ho Sung Song, said he wants the automaker's electric vehicles to account for 25 percent of its total worldwide sales by 2029.
As part of Kia's "Plan S" strategy, the automaker seeks to expand its battery-powered lineup to include a total of 11 new electric models by 2025. Seven battery-powered electric vehicles, which Kia released a sketch of, will come out by 2027. Perhaps one of them will sport an Apple logo.
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