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Electric car battery maker sues Apple for stealing its employees

Electric car battery maker sues Apple for stealing its employees

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Apple is being sued for allegedly poaching top engineers from a company that makes lithium-ion batteries for electric cars. In a court filing reported by Reuters, A123 Systems claims that Apple has been "systematically hiring away [its] high-tech PhD and engineering employees," and that the iPhone maker is "developing a large-scale battery division" of its own — a claim that gives credence to reports that Apple is building its own electric cars.

A123 says that Apple has been poaching its employees since around June 2014, and in a lawsuit filed on February 6th, the company claims to have copies of emails exchanged between Apple's hiring staff and five former A123 employees. The emails were found on the employees' computers after they left the company in "suspicious circumstances," reports Law360.

A123 says it was forced to shut down their projects

The employees in question worked in A123's research and development department and were responsible for, among other things, "developing and testing new battery technology." A123 claims that one of the five employees named in the lawsuit helped Apple recruit others. The company adds that all five individuals were working under contracts with noncompete and nondisclosure obligations, and that their departure has forced to A123 to shut down the projects they were responsible for because of the lack of similar talent.

A123 has worked with chevrolet, Chrysler, and McLaren Mercedes

A123 has previously built battery packs for car manufacturers including Chevrolet and Chrysler. It's also built kinetic energy recovery systems (KERs) that save energy lost by braking for Formula 1 cars for McLaren Mercedes driven by F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. The company has had a rocky past and filed for bankruptcy in 2012 but says it has since recovered, reporting that its earnings in 2014 were "the best in company history, both in terms of revenue and profitability."

If Apple really is snapping up A123's employees then it's a clear indication that the company is exploring the idea of building an electric car. A123's technology hasn't really been used in anything but electric vehicles, and the fact that it had to shut down unfinished projects because of the loss of its employees suggests the calibre of engineering talent involved. If the five individuals did jump ship to Apple to build an electric car then they'd be joining a team that reportedly already includes automation experts and top car designers.