Hyundai taps IonQ to power quantum-based research into lithium car batteries

The automaker hopes to leverage quantum computing to improve the performance, cost, and safety of lithium-based EV batteries.

Hyundai Motor Company has commissioned trapped ion quantum computing specialist IonQ to advance its research into way to improve the battery technology for electric vehicles. 

Under the terms of the agreement, IonQ and Hyundai will jointly explore "new variational quantum eigensolver (VQE) algorithms to study lithium compounds and their chemical reactions involved in battery chemistry." This research will simulate the chemical reactions that are expected to occur within proposed battery designs to help the companies rapidly iterate without having to build physical prototypes of proposed designs. 

The duo believes their efforts will lead to the discovery of new varieties of source material capable of providing improvements for the time, cost, and labor currently involved in existing battery manufacturing practices. They also expect benefits to the quality of final products such as enhancements to device charge and discharge cycles, durability, capacity, and safety.

The pair claims the proposed models being researched are the most complex of their kind yet studied, in terms of qubits and quantum gates being utilized for their simulations. 

Ultimately, Hyundai hopes to reduce the costs and production time associated with battery production. The automaker noted that the required power packs are "typically the most expensive component of an electric vehicle (EV)." Lowering the price of EV batteries, and thus the overall cost of EVs, would go a long way toward helping Hyundai meet the goals of it Strategy 2025 initiative. The plan aims for the annual sale of of 560,000 EVs and the introduction of more than 12 battery electric vehicle (BEV) models to consumers by the end of the titular year. 

Peter Chapman, President and CEO of IonQ called work on battery efficiency "one of the most promising emerging areas where quantum computing can make a difference." 

Daimler also signed a deal with IBM last year to undertake similar quantum-based simulations of lithium-sulfur batteries. 

Given the highly experimental nature of Hyundai and IonQ's research, it shouldn't be surprising that no mention has yet been made of when consumers might see some real-world benefits from their joint research. 

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