Economics rare-earth

Published on January 18th, 2011 | by Christopher DeMorro


Toyota Developing Electric Motors that Don’t Need Rare Earth Metals

On the surface electric cars seem simple, but the motors and batteries are actually made from rare earth elements subject to supply disruption. But Toyota is working on an electric motor that doesn’t use these rare metals.

Toyota is working to develop an electronic motor that eliminates the magnets and uses instead an “inductive motor.” This motor is supposed to be lighter and more-efficient than the current magnet-type motors, and less prone to disruptions in on the supply side

When I say supply disruptions, I actually mean China’s unpredictable export scheme. Recently, there were reports that China had suspended exports of rare earth elements necessary to building, among other fancy technologies, electric cars and batteries. China actually controls about 90% of the world’s rare earth elements. China cut export quotas by 72% in the second half of 2010, and another 35% for the first half of 2011, more than doubling the prices of some elements.

A supply disruption could really slow down acceptance of electric cars and drive costs through the roof, though really, it isn’t any different than our reliance on foreign oil. If OPEC turned off the petrol spigots tomorrow, we’d be in deep doo-doo. While Toyota is looking to get rare earths from places other than China (Afghanistan seems likes a good place to start), development of this new electric motor is apparently in the “advanced” stages of development. Toyota could be setting itself up to take the lead in electric motors down the road, but for now Toyota and other automakers have got to rely on a deal with the devil.

Source: Automotive News

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.

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About the Author

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. When he isn't wrenching or writing, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • http://Web Turbofroggy

    Wow Toyota, amazing. My 2000 Ford Ranger EV has zero rare earth metals in it. Glad your just now researching this, fantastic… Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus EV and my Ford Ranger EV are all induction AC drives with no rare earth perminant magnets. I don’t even think that Toyota’s 1999-2004 Rav4EV had any rare earth magnets in it’s motor either, it was AC induction drive as well.

  • Russ Finley

    This isn’t really very exciting guys. Both the Tesla and Leaf use induction electric motors that have no rare earth magnets in them. This type of motor is fairly common. Toyota is simply deciding to switch to that design because of the present rare earth price problem. No big deal.

  • http://Web Jerry

    Christopher, want to point out one fact, China owns 30% of the rare earth inventory, but supplies over 95% of the total production of the world. Other country stopped mining because of environmental and economical reason. To me, China has every right to reduce the production considering the huge environment problem associated with the mining. Why not developed country, like US, who has better environmental rules and technologies to mine, or better, to cooperate to reduce China’s production.

  • http://Web Jerry

    To mine rare earth in Afghanistan would be an environmental disaster, as if China is not bad enough.

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