Hyundai bets on quantum computing to improve electric vehicle batteries
Article by: Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio
IonQ and Hyundai will develop a battery chemistry model running on a quantum computer to improve the performance of lithium batteries.
IonQ and Hyundai Motor Co. are collaborating to create new methods for solving variational quantum eigenvalues (VQE) to study lithium compounds and chemical interactions in battery chemistry.
VQE is an algorithm for determining the set of values used to solve a given optimization problem. The algorithm uses the variational principle to calculate the ground state energy of a Hamiltonian, or the rate of change over time of the state of a dynamic physical system. The accuracy of conventional methods is limited due to computational limitations.
The partners will develop a battery chemistry model that can run on a quantum computer that would be used to simulate the structure and energy of lithium oxide. The goal is to improve the performance, cost and safety of lithium batteries.
The chemical simulation and computational acceleration provided by quantum computers are expected to dramatically improve the quality of next-generation lithium-ion batteries, providing increased capacity and durability. These attributes could make electric vehicles more attractive to consumers.
IonQ CEO Peter Chapman said batteries remain the toughest engineering challenge in EV development, contributing up to half of an EV’s total production cost. These high costs make electric vehicles too expensive for most consumers. “Cheaper batteries would bring the costs closer to combustion cars and contribute to faster and deeper adoption in the automotive market,” Chapman said in an interview. “Better batteries would also serve to make electric vehicles more attractive. Many of the most common reasons cited by customers for not being ready to make the switch – limited range, slow charging and limited battery life – could be solved with improved battery materials.
Electric vehicles use high-voltage, high-capacity electric motors and battery along with a variety of power management and powertrain technologies. Despite high prices, electric vehicles pollute less than conventional internal combustion vehicles. Yet true sustainability requires improved battery technology that reduces the strain on power grids, even becoming a component of the grid themselves. Future electric vehicles will require advanced batteries based on more efficient materials that can replace cobalt to help reduce environmental impact while increasing range.
“Quantum computers are naturally suited to modeling molecular behavior because both are systems governed by quantum mechanics,” Chapman said. “Simulation of key compounds involved in batteries can help predict the outcome of chemical reactions and potentially lead to new types of source materials that save time, cost and effort for battery development… .”
One of the biggest challenges in building quantum computers is reducing error rates. Several methods are available to construct a qubit, including IonQ’s trapped ion which provides low error rate and high connectivity between qubits. IonQ’s quantum processor is powered by atoms in 3D space and controlled by laser beams to ensure stability.
Qubit counting is increasingly seen as the most relevant benchmark for evaluating the power and capacity of quantum processors. However, as the number of qubits continues to grow, a more accurate and reliable metric is needed. Indeed, fewer high-quality qubits can usually process more than many low-quality qubits, especially if they exhibit lower error rates.
Each qubit in a semiconductor system is unique, very noisy, and must operate in near isolation. This is a disadvantage since, by definition, solid-state technology is not isolated. Therefore, IonQ uses a laser cooling method which stabilizes the atoms if the laser is tuned appropriately. Notably, the IonQ procedure does not require refrigeration or sophisticated equipment, only a laser beam.
“We use lasers to our advantage in different ways,” Chapman said. “In addition to allowing our system to operate at room temperature, the lasers also allow us to customize our system and modify the architecture to meet customer needs exactly. Our laser control software is malleable and can be turned on and off. You cannot turn a physical wire on and off.
The partnership announced this week is central to Hyundai’s 2025 strategy ambitions, which include selling 560,000 electric vehicles a year while introducing more than 12 battery electric vehicle models. Moreover, as electric vehicles play a crucial role in achieving global sustainability goals, the alliance represents a new step in the fight against climate change.
To be fully sustainable, transport needs to be electrified and complemented by other measures such as extending the life of electric vehicles to offset the energy demands of automotive manufacturing.
The lithium-ion cells that power most electric vehicles are based on raw materials such as cobalt and other rare earth elements, the extraction of which can have serious environmental impacts.
IonQ claims it can solve many of these problems with quantum technology in areas such as battery efficiency and increasing the capacity of energy networks. IonQ’s computers have already been used to demonstrate the simulation of large molecules, such as those found in fertilizer production.
“As our hardware and algorithms mature, increasingly complex molecules and reactions can be simulated,” Chapman said. “We’re starting with lithium oxide, but in the future we may broaden our views to solid-state batteries, power generation in the form of better solar cells and more.
“Beyond chemistry, we can also bring quantum to issues such as autonomous driving, charging network distribution, logistics, [and] routing.
This article was originally published on EE time.
Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a doctorate. in physics and is a telecommunications engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. It collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronic design.