(IBM-Case Studies: Daimler) Today’s lithium-ion powered cars can lay claim to persuasive travel distances and charging times, at a range of achievable prices. But if battery performance could double or quadruple overnight – boosting charge capacity, increasing battery life, diminishing energy loss via heat, and dramatically lowering costs – the impact on transportation alone could be world-shaking.
The engineers at Daimler AG, the parent of Mercedes-Benz, expect the next great leap may be towards more energy dense battery technologies – quite possibly the lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery. Developing and perfecting these hypothetical batteries could “unlock a billion-dollar opportunity,” says Benjamin Boeser, Director of Innovation Management, Silicon Valley at Mercedes-Benz R&D North America. But getting from the drawing board to a commercially viable Li-S battery is, essentially, a mammoth chemistry experiment — a research initiative that could consume years of time, money, and engineering expertise.
Enter the quantum computer – a different emerging technology, now on a developmental fast track at IBM. Quantum computing distills some very abstract physics theory into a completely new kind of computing power, seemingly purpose-built to handle problems of once-insoluble complexity. Working with Daimler on real-world battery research is just one aspect of the foundational work that will eventually bring quantum computing to commercial fruition.
“The field is advancing at a healthy speed,” says Daimler’s Mr. Boeser. “But everybody who’s close to the technology and research knows it’s still in its infancy, and we still need to do a lot of work.” Daimler AG is pushing ahead with the transformation to emission-free mobility.
Over the next 20 years, Mercedes-Benz Cars aims to have a carbon-neutral new passenger car fleet and aims to have plug-in hybrids or all-electric vehicles to make up more than 50% of its car sales by 2030.
“A decade sounds far away, but in reality, for many businesses, a decade is totally within the normal horizon of planning and the investment,” says Dario Gil, Director of IBM Research. Look down the road, and there may be a lithium-sulfur powered car just around the bend.