Apple Inc hiring big brains in car battery space

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San Francisco | Published: February 22, 2015 12:06:28 AM

A year-and-a-half ago, Apple had applied for just eight patents related to auto batteries...

A year-and-a-half ago, Apple had applied for just eight patents related to auto batteries. Recently, it has hired a bevy of engineers, just one of whom had already filed for 17 in his former career, according to a Thomson Reuters analysis.

The recent spate of hires and patent filings reviewed by Reuters shows that Apple is fast building its industrial lithium-ion battery capabilities, adding to evidence the iPhone maker may be developing a car. Quiet, clean electric cars are viewed in Silicon Valley and elsewhere as a promising technology for the future, but high costs and ‘range anxiety’, the concern that batteries will run out of power and cannot be recharged quickly, remain obstacles. Those challenges could also be seen as opportunities to find solutions to take the technology mainstream.

The number of auto-related patents filed by Apple, Google, Korea’s Samsung, electric carmaker Tesla Motors and ride-sharing startup Uber tripled from 2011 to 2014, according to an analysis by Thomson Reuters IP & Science of public patent filings. Apple has filed far fewer of these patents than rivals, perhaps adding impetus to its recent hiring binge as it seeks to get up to speed in battery technologies and other car-building related expertise.

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