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Apple has been working on an electric car project for over a year, sources claim.Reuters

Apple is reportedly talking to companies who build and run electric car charging stations, as rumours of the iPhone maker creating its own vehicle intensify more than a year after they began.

These talks are not related to Apple employees charging their own electric cars, as the company already offers this service. The discussions are instead believed to be directly related to Project Titan, the code name used to describe its electric car initiative. Apple is yet to talk publicly about Project Titan, but numerous reliable sources believe hundreds of employees, perhaps as many as 1,000, are secretly working on the vehicle.

Reuters, which is often a reliable source for rumours about unannounced Apple products, states the company is "now asking charging station companies about their underlying technology", according to an unnamed source with knowledge of the matter. The talks "do not concern charging for electric cars of Apple employees," the report states, adding: "They indicate that Apple is focused on a car".

It is claimed the charging companies are "treading carefully" as they do not want to give too much information to Apple, who could become a rival if it builds its own car charging network, like Tesla has done.

The charging infrastructure and range are the biggest challenges currently facing the electric car market, and although they are both improving all of the time, 'range anxiety' – the fear of running out of electricity miles from a charger – is still a very real reason for many drivers to stick with petrol or diesel.

Apple has been on a massive hiring spree over the last 15 months, taking on board staff from a variety of car companies including Tesla and BMW. Project Titan is now believed to be headed by British-born Chris Porritt, the former vice president of vehicle engineering at Tesla and chief engineer at Aston Martin.

Hirings specifically related to electric vehicle charging include Rónán Ó Braonáin, who formerly worked at BMW on integrating car chargers into home energy systems. In January this year, Reuters reports, Apple hired Nan Liu, an engineer who has researched wireless charging for electric vehicles.

It is claimed Apple has a target launch year of 2020 for its first vehicle. The car, or some believe it will be a small bus, will be electric but not fully autonomous at first.

As always, Apple refuses to comment on rumour, speculation and unannounced products.