Toyota Develops New Magnet Less Dependent on Rare Earth Metals
Toyota has developed a new magnet that can cut the use of key rare earth metals by around 20%, which would help reduce the cost of producing electric cars and reduce the risk of running into a material supply shortage.
The heat-resistant magnet uses significantly less neodymium, a rare earth element, than the typical magnets used in the motors found in electrified cars. It also uses no terbium or dysprosium, both rare earth metals categorized as critical, and which are traditionally needed to help increase the heat resistance of neodymium magnets.
Given the automotive industry’s long term target of offering extensive electrified vehicle alternatives, this kind of breakthrough goes a long way toward achieving that goal. Akira Kato, general project manager at Toyota’s R&D and engineering company, puts it best: “An increase in electric car production will raise the need for motors, which will result in higher demand for neodymium down the line.”
“If we continue to use neodymium at this pace we’ll eventually experience a supply shortage … so we wanted to come up with technology which would help conserve neodymium stocks.”
Toyota found a way to replace the material with lanthanum and cerium, more abundant and lower-cost rare earth metals. However, this would normally lead to a decline in performance, so Toyota “adopted new technologies that suppress the deterioration of coercivity and heat resistance.” Make of that what you will.
To put that into perspective, Honda also found a way to eliminate terbium and dysprosium, which costs about $900 to $400 per kilogram, respectively, but only by using more neodymium to compensate, which costs around $100 per kilogram. Toyota, on the other hand, managed it by cutting neodymium by about 50%.
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