Apple has hundreds of employees working on a new electronic vehicle design in top secret, while company executives have flown to Austria to meet with contract manufacturers of high-end cars, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The new project – codenamed "Titan" – is said to resemble a minivan, and could provide technological breakthroughs for other battery-powered Apple products such as its iPhone, iPad and ultra-thin laptops.
Apple's industrial design team is made up of several people who have experience in vehicle design, including Marc Newson who joined the company late last year. Newson – a close friend to Apple's design chief Jony Ive – has previously created a concept car for Ford.
When contacted Apple refused to confirm or deny the rumours, but the reports give credence to a statement made by CEO Tim Cook last September when he revealed that "there are products [Apple] are working on that no one knows about" and "that haven't been rumoured about yet".
While other technology firms such as Google are exploring driverless technologies, it is suggested Apple's electric car will instead become a competitor to Tesla – an electric automobile manufacturer founded by billionaire Pay Pal and Space X founder Elon Musk.
Tesla's electronic vehicles do not replace drivers with computers to complete the task of driving, but aim instead to enhance the driving experience with technology, while also delivering long-range and energy-efficient battery technology.
Apple is known for investing in development work on a wide range of products that it never brings to market, and has filed hundreds of patents for a range of unrealised prototype designs. A car is likely to require significant development time.
Last year, Apple unveiled its first new product line since the iPad – the Apple Watch – following years of speculation about the project. The watch is expected to go on sale in the next couple of months.