Toyota finds way to avoid using rare earth metals like neodymium and dysprosium in hybrids image

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest seller of hybrid vehicles has developed a way to avoid the use of expensive rare earth metals like neodymium and dysprosium, in which China has a near-monopoly, Japan’s Kyodo News reported.

Bloomberg reports that Toyota’s engineers have 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 so-called rare-earth materials.

These motors could also be lighter and more efficient than the magnet-type motor now used in hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius. However, the research is at an “advanced stage,” John Hanson, a company spokesman said, without saying when vehicles with the motors may be sold.

Rare-earth minerals such as neodymium and dysprosium are used in motor magnets in Nissan Motor Co.’s all-electric Leaf car, General Motors Co.’s plug-in Volt and Honda Motor Co.’s Insight hybrid, as well as the Prius, mobile phones and rechargeable batteries.

Dr. Chen Zhanheng who serves as a central figure in The Chinese Society of Rare Earths as Director of the Academic Department states that demand for NeFeB, or neodymium-iron-boron, will increase by 259,026 tons in the next decade, and 176,289 metric tons within the next few years.

The Toyota Prius battery contains more than 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of the rare earth element lanthanum, and its motor magnets use neodymium and dysprosium.

Neodymium now fetches more than $283 a kilogram ($129 a pound) on the spot market. A year ago it sold for about $42 a kilogram ($19 a pound).