By on January 23, 2012

Rare earth free electric motor

China is learning an interesting lesson: Only take a hostage if the other side wants it back. According to Japan’s Kyodo Newswire [sub], Toyota “has acquired technology to produce hybrid and electric vehicles without using rare earths and may begin doing so in about two years.”

In 2010, China used its rare earth as a political tool. To make a point with the Senkaku islands, China tinkered with the rare earth supply, and prices shot up. Rare earth is in the  magnets that power everything from disk drives to  hybrid and electric cars. Japan relies on China for about 90 percent of its rare earth supply, says Kyodo. Japan did not want to be blackmailed. Universities in Japan stepped-up research into dirt-free magnets. A year later, Toyota’s engineers reached an “advanced stage” of research on a new “induction”-type electric motor which holds the promise of freeing the Japanese automaker from dependence on rare-earth materials.

Toyota now seems to be close to commercialization, and it engages in its own, well, bargaining.  Says Kyoto:

Toyota will keep using rare earths if their prices drop, but will consider putting the newly acquired technology into practical use if their value continues to surge.”

When asked by Reuters, “a Toyota spokeswoman said the company continues to research ways to reduce rare earth usage and has no time frame yet for commercialization.”

Sure. Remain unpredictable, lesson number two.

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18 Comments on “Toyota To China: Take Your Rare Earth And Shove It...”


  • avatar
    tekdemon

    China doesn’t really want to supply this stuff to other countries at all, the point of preventing exports was to help their domestic companies secure access to the stuff so they can keep rolling their production lines affordably. It’s likely much cheaper to make a motor the old fashioned way with rare earths.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    The word that deserves greater investigation here is “acquired”. From whom, university, individual, competitor? Then to what conditions? Could this be a piece of the BMW-TMC alliance?

    I’m by no means trying to imply that the TMC keiretsu couldn’t do this on its own, or in partnership w a japanese university, or some other, but with knowledge being transferable to the point of fungability,it is not impossible that this could have come from a German university via BMW and the alliance.

    Again, I find “acquired” to be a very odd and interesting choice of word here…

  • avatar
    GS650G

    China is new at this capitalism stuff, lessons need to be learned.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Just like our own, homegrown “Help, Iran can block Hormuz for a week, the world’s coming to an end!” parade of dimwitted clowns. At least the Chinese politicians have more of an excuse, as they never pretended to have much clue about it in the first place.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Page 56, Jan 2012 Car and Driver. Shows GMs eAssist induction motor-generator cutaway that uses no permanent magnets, and implies that manufacturers are looking at more of this type of design. Not quite as efficient, but smaller, cheaper and lighter. So Toyota is just going down a similar path.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/04/induction_motors

    Very good article from last April. It seems Tesla Motors may be Toyota’s new assistant, if one reads between the lines, and recalls the Toyota/Tesla linkup.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      The Japanese are nothing else if clever. I remember reading about a year ago that there was some sort of Washington funded American university research into a significant improvement in battery energy capacity, and it was coming GM’s way.
      If, somehow, this is what Toyota has – well, isn’t that special? It took Russia 5 years to glean billions of dollars of research into the atomic bomb for free; Toyota has managed that in a year.

  • avatar
    carbiz

    Blackmail or not, perhaps countries that HAVE are beginning to wake up. Small countries that have rich resources (like Chile and Argentina have with lithium) can either meter their resources out slowly, at higher prices, or hoard them for their own future use.
    Although my opinions are not often popular amongst the disciples of Globalism, I have always maintained that North America needs to dig a big mote around itself and tell the rest of the world to F-off.
    We don’t need it. With Canada’s resources, American ingenuity and market size, and cheap labor from Mexico, we do have it all. There is nothing we need from the rest of them. Shut the borders and let China, the Eurozone, Afghanistan and the rest sort things on their own. If they’re all still there in 50 years, then perhaps we can start a dialogue again.
    Or do you Americans love getting kicked in the teeth with every new generation?

    • 0 avatar
      musiccitymafia

      Globalization is a reality. It’s a one way street my friend. Small mote’s that existed in the past around North America are getting filled in with the carcasses of those who can’t adapt. Progress is inevitable.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Yeah that would be a great way to turn us into the 3rd world of the planet. Seriously, if you don’t understand global trade economics don’t try to come up with some ridiculous economic plan because in all likelihood it’d doom us. Your plan would basically turn our economy into Cuba’s.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      We could be just like 50′s China or modern day North Korea! Wonderful idea.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      Ironically, the definition of a “mote” is small particle or spec, which is what our economy would become if we built a Moat (a ditch filled with water) around us.

      Since we are surrounded by oceans on the east and west, and you want to trade with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, I’m not sure where the moat would go.

      Maybe you should hold off on economic policy until you get geography and spelling down…

  • avatar
    Herm

    I’m not sure PM motors are more efficient that induction motors such as Tesla or GM use.. I think they are a bit smaller but even that is not that important since GM packages gears inside the main motor of the Volt. I do prefer induction motors since they are far more durable under high heat and high NHV conditions.. and no magnets to rust.

    I Toyota set up their manufacturing lines long ago and now is changing them.

  • avatar
    carve

    Great. AC induction motors powered the EV-1 and all of Tesla’s cars. I think the only real downside to them is the need for a big DC to AC convertor.

  • avatar
    Sgt Beavis

    China forgot that necessity is the mother of invention.


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