Apple is working with a Chinese firm on research and development of car batteries, despite claiming it was only developing the software for vehicles.
China’s Yicai Global claims the Cupertino tech giant has been working with Contemporary Amperex Technology to develop car batteries.
CATL was previously a part of Amperex Technology Ltd, which supplies batteries for other Apple products, but has since been spun off into a separate entity.
Based in China’s Fujian province, it is believed the parties are working together in the field of batteries, sources involved with the cooperation said.
CATL currently produces battery packs for electric buses, electric passenger vehicles, electric trucks, and for stationary energy storage.
The company has been the third-largest battery manufacturer in the world for the past two years, shipping 6.8 GWh worth of batteries last year, up from 2.4 GWh shipped in 2015.
Earlier this year Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook has confirmed that the company is working on software for self-driving cars for the first time.
The company has long been rumoured to be working on driverless technology, and recently autonomous vehicles have been spotted around its California headquarters.
But Apple, which has already invested heavily in machine learning and automation in computing, had refused to reveal its plans on cars until now.
In a recent interview, Mr Cook finally confirmed Apple’s intentions, describing self-driving technology as ‘the mother of all AI [artificial intelligence] projects’.
‘We’re focusing on autonomous systems,’ Mr Cook told Bloomberg.
‘It’s a core technology that we view as very important.
‘We sort of see it as the mother of all AI projects – it’s probably one of the most difficult AI projects actually to work on.’
The intentions of Apple’s move into driverless car technology, codenamed Project Titan, changed last year when the company stopped working on its own car to develop self-driving AI that could be fitted into other vehicles.
Mr Cook declined to say whether Apple wanted to build its own car in future.
‘We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do,’ he said.
While Apple had not formally announced plans to build self-driving technology before, the company’s interest was confirmed earlier this year when it was granted a permit to test the vehicles.
In April, one of Apple’s fleet of prototype self-driving vehicles was captured emerging from a Silicon Valley research facility.
The kitted-out white Lexus RX450h SUV was snapped by a passerby just two weeks after Apple was granted permission to test its autonomous vehicles in California.
The vehicle was dotted with an array of sensors and other equipment, according to the person who saw the vehicle and provided photos to Bloomberg.
The sensors used by the vehicle appeared to be bought off the shelf rather than custom-made by Apple, according to an industry expert who saw the photos.
They included Velodyne Lidar’s top-of-the-range 64-channel sensor for obstacle detection, at least two radar and a series of cameras.
Cameras can be seen at the back, top, front and sides of the car.
California’s state Department of Motor Vehicles announced that Apple officially secured a permit to test autonomous vehicles in the state on April 14.
Apple joins a growing list of traditional car-makers, technology companies, and small start ups to test drive cars in California.
All are vying to be the first company to bring self-driving cars to the masses.
Companies that have been issued permits also include Alphabet Inc’s Google unit, Ford Motor Co, Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG, Tesla Motors Inc and General Motors Co.
Many companies have said the first cars will launch in 2020 but some experts believe it may take much longer due to regulatory challenges.
By MARK PRIGG