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Apple working on high-voltage battery power converters intended for sports cars

Porsche's 800-volt battery pack, located in the floor of the car.

Apple is continuing to explore ways to improve cars and other vehicles, possibly as part of Project Titan, as the iPhone producer has come up with ways to refine power transfer systems used in electric vehicles to run low-power equipment.

Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple's patent application for "Converter Architecture" discusses how power from a high voltage source could be converted down to a lower voltage. In this case, the application advises it is in relation to such systems used in a car.

Electric and hybrid vehicles are typically powered by a high voltage battery or another "high energy store," but while this is mostly needed to get the car moving, the vehicle also needs to use the same energy sources to power components and subsystems, for example air conditioning systems, the dashboard, infotainment units, and battery controllers.

While a converter is usually used to down convert high voltage power to a lower voltage, Apple believes they are "often inefficient and suffer from load transients that are absorbed by and may cause damage to a low voltage battery." In short, they are not efficient and may vary in output to a point where it could affect other connected low voltage components.

Apple's solution is to use multiple direct current (DC) converters to handle the task, with an unregulated DC-to-DC converter down converting an initial high-energy source down to a lower voltage, which could be supplied to a bus. This load is then passed to a second regulated DC-to-DC converter, which is used to regulate the voltage of the bus.

A second lower-voltage power source, such as a battery, could be connected to the regulated converter and be recharged over time. In the event the power supplied to the regulated converter is below an acceptable level, the second power source could be used to supplement the power received by the first, bringing the bus up to a more suitable level of power for the connected components to be used.

Apple's proposed system in the
Apple's proposed system in the "Converter Architecture" patent application

While the existence of a patent or an application is a sign that Apple has worked on an idea, there is no guarantee that Apple will use the concept in a future product.

In this case, however, the application certainly suggests the idea stems from Apple's Project Titan, which was originally believed to be a branded vehicle project before seemingly pivoting over to self driving vehicle systems. The application explicitly mentions it could be used for electric vehicle power trains.

There are also suggested high and low voltage values of 800 volts and 48 volts respectively, with the former being a value typically reserved for industry or high-performance electric vehicles. By contrast, the Tesla Model S uses a battery voltage of 375 volts, potentially putting the theoretical Apple-produced vehicle firmly in the high-performance category.

While Apple has seemingly stuck to self driving technology for Project Titan, evidence of Apple's exploration into other areas of vehicular design continues to mount. In August, patents surfaced for a sunroof system with a tapered roof and for a seat-based haptic feedback system.

More filings in September suggested how a headlight system could single out road elements that a driver should be aware of, as well as a heads-up display that could display points of interest and highlight pedestrians on the inside of a car's windscreen.

Despite the shift to vehicular vision and control, there is still speculation Apple will come out with its own vehicle at some point in the future, possibly by 2023, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.