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.