More rumors that Apple is working on becoming an automaker, or at least an automotive supplier, have bubbled up thanks to a report out of China.

Chinese publication Yicai Global says the tech giant is working in secret with a Chinese battery manufacturer – Contemporary Amperex Technology Ltd (CATL) – on research and development for automotive batteries.

CATL is based in China’s Fujian province. It was once part of Amperex Technology Ltd. (ATL) before splitting off. ATL is the largest battery supplier for Apple’s consumer electronics offerings. It’s been an independent manufacturer of batteries since 2011, and many of CATL’s key shareholders were once executives at ATL.

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“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with Bloomberg last month. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” Presumably, he meant automotive autonomous systems. He also said that this was “the mother of all AI projects,” but didn’t divulge any other details of what Apple is working on relating to automotive technology.

Neither Apple nor CATL has mentioned a collaboration with each other.

“If Apple is working with CATL on a battery, the possibility that Apple will continue to make cars cannot be ruled out as one of the core components of self-driving electric cars is the battery,” CCID Consulting’s New Energy director Wu Hui said to Yicai Global.

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Of course, even if Apple is working CATL on batteries, it doesn’t mean Apple is actually working on a car. Apple’s iOS in the Car project turned out to foreshadow Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, while efforts to recruit employees from legacy automakers to work on Project Titan – rumored to be an electric-car project, seemed to fall flat, as reports last year suggested that the company was instead focusing on driver-assist technologies that would help speed the development of autonomous cars.

It could very well turn out that Apple is working on an EV, or it could simply mean Apple is working on supplying tech – perhaps both software and hardware like batteries – without actually building its own car. Apple may decide that breaking into the car business is too hard.

We may yet get an iCar – or this new may mean nothing. Only Tim Cook knows for sure.

Yicai Global