Volkswagen Group and Canadian quantum technology company Xanadu have established a multiyear research programme to improve the performance of quantum algorithms for simulating battery materials.

The goal is to reduce computational costs and accelerate VW adoption of quantum computers to develop battery materials that are safer, lighter and more cost effective.

The automaker said accurate and efficient simulation of battery materials is an industry wide challenge which “could” benefit from the arrival of fault tolerant quantum computers. Existing classical methods, such as density functional theory, have been the cornerstone of computational chemistry for several decades, but despite much success, are reaching limitations on research areas critical for building better batteries.

“Next generation high performance materials and electrochemical processes are key ingredients of this expedition,” said Nikolai Ardey, head of VW group innovation.

“Quantum computing might trigger a revolution in material science and optimisation, key competences to grow our inhouse battery expertise.”

Over the past year, the two companies have engaged in multi domain research across material science, computational chemistry, battery technology and quantum algorithms which have set the foundation for the programme’s long term research. The joint programme aims to tackle industry challenges in battery research by focusing on the development of advanced quantum algorithms for simulating battery materials that will be processed on Xanadu’s fault tolerant quantum computers.

The programme’s first research article published in September 2022 highlights the first estimation of the resources required to implement a quantum algorithm for simulating a realistic cathode material, dilithium iron silicate.

“Focusing on batteries is a strategic choice given the demand from industry and the prospects for quantum computing to aid in understanding the complex chemistry inside a battery cell,” said Juan Miguel Arrazola, head of algorithms at Xanadu.

The programme will also investigate additional computational problems in materials discovery where quantum computing has the strongest prospects for massive impact.

The deal with Xanadu supports VW’s larger objective of becoming a data and software driven provider of more sustainable mobility and its ambition to lead in both battery development and quantum computing applications.

Earlier this year, the automaker and the Canadian government signed a memorandum of understanding to promote electric mobility in the country. Both parties agreed to investigate opportunities for Canada to contribute to VW’s global and regional battery supply chains.

The Canadian government has been investing in quantum technology which has brought top talent to the country, built up quantum expertise and made Canada a leader in the sector.