Volkswagen has been heavily investing in batteries in order to support its planned ramp-up of electric vehicle production starting next year.
Their efforts have so far been focused on actual battery production and securing the rarer raw materials needed, like cobalt, but they are also exploring more future-oriented options to improve batteries at the technological level.
Today, VW is announcing a partnership with Google to use quantum computers to improve electric car batteries and others parts of the future of transportation, like traffic optimization and new machine learning processes.
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Quantum computing is still very much in its infancy, but Google has been an early leader in the field and earlier this year, it started offering AI researchers quantum computer access to drive application development.
Artificial intelligence and quantum computing are both seen as having a lot of potential to solve difficult problems in material science and help create new materials to optimize existing technologies, like batteries.
Earlier this year, Toyota announced a similar initiative to work on the next generation of batteries for electric cars.
Now it looks like VW is trying to do the same by securing this new partnership with Google.
Martin Hofmann, Chief Information Officer of the Volkswagen Group, commented on the partnership:
“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. Thanks to our cooperation with Google, we have taken a major step towards this goal.”
The companies say that they will focus on research for “practical applications” and that specialists from the Volkswagen Information Technology Centers (IT labs) in San Francisco and Munich will “develop algorithms, simulations and optimizations together with the Google experts.”
Hartmut Neven, Director of the Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, also commented:
“Volkswagen has enormous expertise in solving important, real-world engineering problems, and it is an honor for us to collaborate on how quantum computing may be able to make a difference in the automotive industry.”
When it comes to batteries, the Volkswagen specialists plan to use this opportunity to work with Google on “simulating and optimizing the structure of high-performance batteries for electric vehicles and other materials.”
Currently, li-ion batteries dominate the electric vehicle industry and they are available with different types of chemistries. There’s still room for improvement within li-ion technologies, but researchers are also looking at other battery technologies to eventually replace li-ion, like air-metal, solid-state, or graphene batteries.