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Toyota "Bypassing" Rare Earths?

Discussion in 'Prius, Hybrid, EV and Alt-Fuel News' started by Russell Frost, Mar 1, 2011.

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  1. Russell Frost

    Russell Frost the whatdrives.us guy

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    This post is written by Russell Frost, founder of PriusOwnersGroup.com. Russell is also the co-host of the advanced car tech podcast, What Drives Us.
    In a story ostensibly about Hyundai's search for a rare earth minerals autoevolution.com mentioned something I had missed earlier.
    Background, as you may be aware, China currently produces 95% of all the rare earth minerals mined on the planet. China isn't the sole source, in fact, there are other sources in other countries richer than China's. Right now those other countries aren't mining them or not to the extent that China is. So, for now, China is the go-to source for rare earth minerals.
    But wait, "rare earth" minerals, who cares? Well, if you have a hybrid car you care. Currently the Prius uses 1KG of neodymium and 10 to 15KG of lanthanum in the batteries and motors. Rare earths are essential to hybrid production, and here's the key phrase, as they are produced today.
    China has recently announced plans to cut their rare earth exports by as much as 70% sending a lot of people, not just hybrid car manufacturers, into a spin. Rare earths are essential for a number of things. But as the report on autoevolution says, Toyota is non-plussed by this development. Why?
    Apparently Toyota has plans to create a new type of electric motor for its engines that doesn't make extensive use of rare earths.
    We also know something autoevolution didn't mention. A couple of years ago Toyota quietly made some nice deals with some folks in South America, another huge and untapped source of rare earths. So either way, it would Toyota's forward thinking (forgive me) has them well placed for continue making hybrid and hopefully soon, electric vehicles.
    [AutoEvolution]
    And various stories on rare earth exploration on priusownersgroup.com
  2. hampdenwireless

    hampdenwireless Active Member

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    It is very possible to gain performance by replacing neodymium permanent magnet (PM) motors with induction magnet motors. There are designs that can vary the magnet strength for optimization. This is still new territory and I am sure PM motors will be the norm for a while. The faster the price of neodymium goes up, the faster you will see induction motors in hybrids.
  3. qbee42

    qbee42 My other car is a boat

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    The down side is that induction motors are less efficient. For a given size and cost, they can be more powerful, but use power less efficiently.

    Unrelated, but it's also important to realize that rare earth elements aren't particularly rare. At the present time China has a lock on them, since they undercut world prices, but the U.S. has major deposits that can be mined if market pressures so dictate.

    Tom
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