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Apple car plot thickens

Upset Apple car: A lawsuit filed against Apple could hamper progress of an electric vehicle if one is secretly underway.

Fisker battery-maker A123 sues Apple for poaching crucial engineers

Apple logo20 Feb 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

THE company that supplied batteries to failed electric vehicle-maker Fisker is suing Apple Inc for poaching staff, after the consumer electronics giant hired several top A123 engineers, stoking rumours that Apple may be planning an electric car.

According to the lawsuit filed in a Massachusetts federal court, the tech experts were key to some of A123's critical EV battery projects, and have violated their employment contracts by moving to Apple.

However, for that claim to stand, the defected engineers must be assigned to a project that directly rivals an A123 product, which raises the question: just what is Apple working on? The lawsuit claims the iPad, iPhone and computer manufacturer is forming “a large-scale battery division to compete in the same field as A123” which suggests the company could have a project involving batteries far larger than the types powering its current range of devices.

While Apple remains tight-lipped about its future plans, the effort to amass a large lithium-ion battery team would suggest it is exploring the possibility of an electric vehicle.

If one were to result, it would likely employ Apple's web-based technology expertise to rival Google and its forthcoming autonomous car, while its electric technology would pitch it against other EV brands such as Tesla, BMW, Renault and Nissan.

With the latest recruits, Apple's growing project team now includes automotive experts previously employed by Tesla, A123, Daimler and Ford, bringing a wide range of automotive skills to the pool.

Apple has already started exploring the automotive realm with its CarPlay application, which allows users to control their iPhone through a vehicle's existing information and entertainment system.

The technology makes Apple applications available through a compatible vehicle's dash-mounted screen such as phone, music and navigation services.

A123 says without the migrating key personnel, some high-importance projects are under threat, which could have significant knock-on implications for the company's future.

While the company produces lithium-ion batteries of all sizes, it specialises in large vehicle-powering units such as the ones previously provided for the Fisker high performance vehicles before the company's closure last year.

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