Volkswagen is making incredible scientific breakthroughs when it comes to the development of electric vehicle batteries. It seems like something out of a science fiction movie. The automaker has, for the first time, succeeded in simulating “industrially relevant molecules” using a quantum computer. VW has successfully simulated molecules like lithium-hydrogen and carbon chains, and are already working on more complex chemical compounds.
What does that mean exactly?
VW wants to eventually simulate the chemical structure of a complete electric vehicle battery on a quantum computer. It seems mind-blowing but all this super science has a distinct purpose: the development of high-performance electric vehicle batteries. VW is creating what they call a “tailor-made battery,” or a configurable, production-ready “chemical blueprint.”
VW’s press materials on this topic are focused on the hard science, but reading between the lines one can see the intent. VW will leverage cutting edge science to create a better automobile – in this case, electric ones. And the timing seems right, given how a recent survey from AAA found car buyers are warming up to electric vehicles.
“We are focusing on the modernization of IT systems throughout the Group,” explained Martin Hofmann, Chief Information Officer, Volkswagen Group. “The objective is to intensify the digitalization of work processes – to make them simpler, more secure and more efficient and to support new business models.”
“We intend to acquire the specialist knowledge we need for this purpose now,” added Florian Neukart, Principle Scientist at Volkswagen’s CODE Lab in San Francisco, California. “We are convinced that commercially available quantum computers will open up previously unimaginable opportunities.”
With newly developed algorithms, VW has already “laid the foundation” for simulating and optimizing the aforementioned chemical structures of electric vehicle batteries on a quantum computer. In time, the quantum algorithm could simulate the chemical composition of a battery on the basis of different criteria: weight reduction, maximum power density, or cell assembly, for example, and even provide a design that could be more easily produced.
VW believes this will help advance the battery development process, a time-consuming and resource-intensive endeavor for any automaker.
“This is why we are combining our core task with the introduction of specific key technologies for Volkswagen,” Hofmann said. “These include the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, as well as quantum computing.”
Collaboration & Applications
Data scientists, computer linguists, software engineers, and other IT experts from VW are working together in San Francisco and Munich to better understand the potential of quantum computing. Various applications in which quantum computing could be beneficial for the automaker are being closely examined.
“We are working hard to develop the potential of quantum computers for Volkswagen. The simulation of electro-chemical materials is an important project in this context,” Neukart said. “In this field, we are performing genuine pioneering work.”
VW is collaborating with Google and D-Wave who provide the VW teams with access to their systems. In late 2017, VW and Google began a partnership with regard to quantum computing.
“Quantum computing technology opens up new dimensions and represents the fast-track for future-oriented topics. We at Volkswagen want to be among the first to use quantum computing for corporate processes as soon as this technology is commercially available,” Hofmann said at the time. “Thanks to our cooperation with Google, we have taken a major step towards this goal.”
VW will present their research at the CEBIT technology show in Hanover, Germany starting on June 12th.
Carl Anthony is Managing Editor of Automoblog and resides in Detroit, Michigan. He studies mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ally Jolie Baldwin Foundation, and is a loyal Detroit Lions fan.
Photos & Source: Volkswagen of America, Inc.