Apple is investigating how to charge electric cars, talking to charging station companies and hiring engineers with expertise in the area, according to people familiar with the matter and a review of LinkedIn profiles.
For more than a year, Silicon Valley has been buzzing about Apple's plan to build an electric car. Now the company appears to be laying the groundwork for the infrastructure and related software crucial to powering such a product.
The moves show Apple responding to a key shortcoming of electric vehicles: "filling up" the batteries.
A shortage of public charging stations, and the hours wasted in charging a car, could be an opportunity for Apple, whose simple designs have transformed consumer electronics.
Apple, which has never publicly acknowledged a car project, declined to comment.
Neither the LinkedIn profiles nor sources said specifically that Apple was building charging stations for electric cars. But automotive sources last year told Reuters that Apple was studying a self-driving electric vehicle (EV), as the Silicon Valley icon looks for new sources of revenue amid a maturing market for its iPhone.
Apple is now asking charging station companies about their underlying technology, one person with knowledge of the matter said.
It is unclear whether Apple would want its own proprietary technology, such as Tesla Motors' Supercharger network, or design a system compatible with offerings from other market players.
Apple has also hired at least four electric vehicle charging specialists, including former BMW employee Rnn Braonin, who worked on integrating charging infrastructure into home energy systems as well as communication between EVs, BMW and utilities, according to a LinkedIn review.
As recently as January Apple hired Nan Liu, an engineer who researched a form of wireless charging for electric vehicles, for instance. Quartz earlier this month reported that Apple had hired former Google charging expert Kurt Adelberger.
The electric car industry has faced a chicken-and-egg paradox with the installation of charging stations.
Property owners have been reluctant to install them before EVs hit the road en masse, and drivers are wary of buying EVs until charging stations are widely available.
Apple's home state of California by 2020 will need about 13 to 25 times the roughly 8000 work and public chargers it currently has, to support a projected 1 million zero-emission vehicles on the road, according to an estimate by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.