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Toyota’s new magnet won’t depend on some key rare-earth minerals

Wednesday February 28, 2018. 02:32 PM , from Ars Technica
Enlarge / Annealed neodymium iron boron magnets sit in a barrel prior to being crushed into powder at Neo Material Technologies Inc.'s Magnequench Tianjin Co. factory in Tianjin, China, on Friday, June 11, 2010. Photographer: Doug Kanter/Bloomberg via Getty Images. (credit: Getty Images)
Toyota says it has invented a new magnet for high-energy applications like electric motors that uses a fraction of the amount of neodymium (a rare-earth element) of a standard iron, boron, neodymium (NdFeB) magnet.
Rare-earth magnets are used in many hybrid vehicles, some all-electric vehicles, and in other applications like wind turbines and robotics.
Although 'rare' is a bit of a misnomer for a material like neodymium (high demand has led to relatively high production volumes), Toyota notes that 'there are concerns that shortages will develop as electrified vehicles, including hybrid and battery electric vehicles, become increasingly popular in the future.' That concern is compounded by the concentration of rare-earth mining: although attempts have been made to mine rare-earth metals in the US and other parts of the world, a preponderance of rare-earth mining occurs in China. That country threatened to stop exporting neodymium and other rare earths in 2011, which sent prices for the metals soaring. If China were to use rare-earth access as a geopolitical tool again, it could significantly impact companies like Toyota that depend on rare earths to build flagship products like the Prius.
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