The Apple Car: It Just Might Be ‘Christmas Eve’

Apple Hires A Design Engineer From Tesla

The news that Apple has hired Chris Porritt, once a chief design engineer at Aston Martin and most recently an engineer for Tesla, has re-ignited all of the rumors that Apple is indeed developing an electric car.

While these rumors are nothing new, there has been mounting evidence over the past year, and this new hire probably means that Apple is moving seriously from the research into the design phase.

Secret Lab In Germany

This week, news broke that Apple has a design lab in Berlin, with about 15-20 design engineers, all with histories in the auto industry, who are working on “various projects” related to Project Titan, what many believe is the secret code name for the electric car project.

Real Estate In California

At the same time, Apple is buying up a lot of real estate in Silicon Valley, and filing permits with local authorities that must include the type of facility and equipment and chemicals to be housed there.

Information on the filings (which are public record) was recently published in The Silicon Valley Business Journal. They include lots of stuff related to the car industry – a lube bay, a wheel balancer, a wheel sensor, and tire changer.

Lists of chemicals include those that would be related to the car industry as well, and have been designated for use in spray rooms, design shops, an R&D lab, and a metal/machine shop.

One can assume that the next new Apple phone device will probably not have tires.

Porritt Probably Replacing Steve Zadesky

Among the swirl of rumors around the possibility of Apple’s move into the car industry, were reports that Apple executive Steve Zadesky was leading Project Titan. While not officially confirmed, it appears that Zadesky has left Apple and that Porritt has been brought on board to replace him. And many of Apple’s senior engineers are now reporting directly to Porritt.

This new hire makes sense only if Apple is really developing a car.

Porritt’s Background

Porritt has a long history in the car industry. He was Chief Engineer at Aston Martin, and then Vice President of Vehicle Engineering at Tesla. His specific areas of expertise could be interpreted as useful for hardware engineering, but his work in both auto companies focused on vehicle architecture, dynamics, and packaging.

While at Tesla, Porritt’s work focused on the Model S and Model X. And before he was at Aston Martin, he spent 10 years as one of the principle design engineers of a Land Rover.

It is rumored that Porritt was terminated at Tesla, but Elon Musk has remained mute to this point. In the past, he has joked that Apple is the “graveyard” for former Tesla engineers, but more recently, when asked about the possibility of Apple getting into the electric car business, had this to say.

“I encourage more participation by whoever it is to create electric vehicles … It’s quite hard to do, but I think companies like Apple will probably make a compelling electric car. It seems like the obvious thing to do.”

The Greek Factor

The name “Titan” comes from Greek mythology and refers to a group of mighty deities who ruled the world before the Olympians. Each of the facilities purchased in Cupertino has also been given a project name – Rhea, Medusa, Zeus, Pegasus, Athena, and Aria – all from Greek mythology. Obviously, Apple has a theme in mind for the eventual naming of its cars.

Teasers From Shareholders’ Meeting

At a shareholders’ meeting held earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook would only say that there would not be an announcement coming any time soon.

At yesterday’s meeting, however, he had this to say.

“Do you remember when you were a kid and Christmas Eve was so exciting? You weren’t sure what was going on downstairs? Well, it’s going to be Christmas Eve for a while.”

While no one is sure how long Christmas Eve will last, those who have been following this story closely believe that the Apple Car will launch sometime in 2019.

[Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images]

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