Simulating Lithium-Ion Batteries: The Future of Electric Vehicles

Mercedes-Benz and partner IBM announced their plans to simulate lithium-ion batteries via quantum computers. This ambitious project can allow for a better grasp on powering electric vehicles and even lead to a future with more efficient, energy-dense, and environmentally friendly batteries.

Simulating Lithium-Ion Batteries: The Future of Electric Vehicles

The rise of electric vehicles has revolutionized the automobile industry throughout the 2010s. With the new decade in full swing, the potential for continued growth and awe-inspiring technology could be closer than one might think.

IBM has announced their collaboration with Mercedes Benz to create a device that can simulate the chemical reaction in batteries. This breakthrough can provide a deeper understanding of how batteries work which will aid in their eventual improvement.

Mercedes and IBM’s unique strategy has the potential to shift the course of EVs within this new decade and create a reactionary effect of more eco-friendly and powerful automobiles.

Understanding Lithium-Ion Batteries

Currently, electric vehicles are powered via a lithium-ion battery. In general terms, scientists do have an understanding of how batteries work to generate energy. However, once technicality comes into play and grasping batteries on a molecular level, that knowledge and understanding decrease substantially.

Lithium-ion batteries have also gained a rather significant sum of naysayers who opposed this energy option due to its supposed large environmental impact. Lithium-ion batteries do have an energy-intensive production process. It must be considered their production energy source and copious life-cycle assessments still put them at a net benefit compared to gasoline-powered vehicles.

Other than their environmental impact, our knowledge of lithium-ion batteries is still rather limited in comparison to other forms of alternative energies. What we do know of the mechanics of these batteries is their run time, their power, and their compatibility. But what if all of that could be improved?

With the help of IBM’s Quantum Computers, Mercedes Benz is looking to run many experiments to better understand the complexities of Lithium-Ion batteries.

Quantum computing can best be understood as a way to harness the behavior of quantum physics. This behavior is then applied to computing to introduce new concepts and utilize programming for maximum outcomes. Quantum computers don’t always necessarily move at quicker speeds than traditional computers, but rather are beneficial in the fact that they can grasp a larger quantity of information and therefore allow for a deeper understanding of complex subjects that a traditional computer wouldn’t have the capacity for - such as superconductivity or photosynthesis.

Mercedes-Benz: The Road to a Sustainable Future

IBM currently has 20 quantum computers being used by roughly 300,000 users throughout the globe, meaning there is an estimated 1 billion executions be running every single day by these users via the IBM cloud. This experimentation will allow for the quicker development of a lithium-ion simulation, leading to a quicker improvement of EVs.

Mercedes-Benz estimates that a better understanding of lithium-ion batteries can lead to the development of more energy-dense battery technologies. They even have their sights set on the potential of lithium-sulfur (Li-S) batteries for the future of EVs. Li-S batteries are touted to be more eco-friendly, more energy-dense, and more readily available than their counterpart, lithium-ion batteries.

What has held lithium-sulfur batteries back from entering into mainstream use is the low electrical conductivity of sulfur, low cycling stability, and volume expansion. That said, the potential of this secondary battery has led to an array of scientists around the globe working endlessly to solve these discrepancies and improve the overall safety and electrochemical performance of lithium-sulfur batteries.

This news comes shortly after the automobile manufacturer was acquired from their current parent company, Daimler AG, in 2019. The incoming influence from Daimler has yielded a significant increase in sustainability initiatives and an overall improved outlook for the future of Mercedes-Benz.

The company’s sustainability goals include the eventual transformation of its entire fleet to hybrid and full-electric vehicles within the near future and to be carbon neutral across its supply chain and production line by 2039. Further, Mercedes provides an annual sustainability report,

transparency within their fleets, and a comprehensive array of initiatives, such as the requirement of all their partnering suppliers to source responsibly and refrain from illegal logging and, therefore, deforestation.

The company also provides leather alternatives for their vehicle fleet and has promised to only purchase electricity in Germany that is derived from alternative energy options. Since Germany is home to the company’s headquarters, this pledge can significantly impact its overall environmental footprint.

This partnership provides the potential of outcomes that are too grand to even predict. If Mercedes-Benz can gain a better understanding of how lithium-ion batteries work on a molecular level, their improvement could lead to a domino effect of new advances not only in the EV field but in the field of sustainability as is. When this knowledge is discovered, the advancements could be applied to everyday devices, leading to a future that is cleaner, healthier, and more technologically advanced than ever before.

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