Apple reportedly aiming to launch electric car by 2020

Car team now numbers 200, with the addition in recent months of experts on batteries and robotics, sources tell Bloomberg.

Is Apple aiming for an electric car by 2020? James Martin/CNET

Apple is aiming to get an electric car rolling on the streets in five years, according to the latest report.

Although it hasn't officially announced its intentions to build and market an electric vehicle, the iPhone maker is pushing its development team to have the car ready for production as early as 2020, Bloomberg reported Thursday, citing unidentified sources described as having knowledge of the matter. The team, which is said to have about 200 employees, has been growing in recent months and now includes experts in technologies such as batteries and robotics.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The report is the latest bit of mounting evidence suggesting Apple intends to produce an electric car, perhaps one that will be self-driving, to take on Tesla and others. Rumors started swirling last week that the company is creating a team charged with designing the vehicle. Reported recent hires include Johann Jungwirth, who was CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America until this past September.

Further evidence emerged earlier this month in the form of a lawsuit filed by a maker of batteries for electric cars. Massachusetts-based A123 Systems, which says it specializes in "advanced energy storage for electric-drive vehicles," accused Apple of poaching a handful of top engineers to work for a new battery division and said in its complaint that "Apple is currently developing a large-scale battery division to compete in the very same field as A123."

Hints of Apple's alleged automotive ambitions have emerged before. Last year, reports surfaced suggesting that Apple had held talks to acquire Tesla. The company's CEO and founder, Elon Musk, has acknowledged holding meetings with Apple, but he stopped short of saying that their discussions involved a possible acquisition. He has also noted that Tesla isn't for sale.

And while Tesla claims to have hired more Apple employees than workers from any other company, Apple has succeeded in getting , Musk told Bloomberg earlier this month.

Apple has been interested in the automotive industry for years, though CEO Tim Cook only recently said the company's iOS-based, in-car platform CarPlay is a "key to our future." CarPlay, which lets users do everything from access iTunes tracks to answer messages, is part of a growing tech industry focus on all things automotive, including assisted driving.

Last year Morgan Stanley's Adam Jonas predicted autonomous vehicles will be used everywhere and anywhere by 2026 as the industry works through issues related to liability, infrastructure and consumer acceptance.

"Autonomous cars are no longer just the realm of science fiction," Jonas wrote in a research note to clients. "They are real and will be on roads sooner than you think."

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