The Toyota EV motor magnet will use lanthanum and cerium which are cheaper than neodymium, demand of which is expected to exceed supply after 2025. 

Toyota EV magnet development expected to be in use in the coming decade

Toyota, the world’s third largest automaker, has discovered a way to reduce the amount of a key and expensive rare earth metal used in magnets for Toyota EV motors by around 20 per cent.

The finding could cut the cost of producing EVs and reduce the risk of dependency on materials needed for production.

Toyota says it will replace some of the neodymium with more abundant and cheaper lanthanum and cerium.  Neodymium is a rare earth metal which is used in the world’s most powerful permanent batteries.

The company says it hopes to use the magnets in Toyota EV motors within the next 10 years.

As automakers shift their attention to electric vehicles and production ramps up in the coming years, carmakers along with electronics companies are developing new high-powered magnets that require less rare earth metals.

These moves come in response to supply shortages and past political incidents.  In 2010, China temporarily banned the export of neodymium during a territorial dispute with Japan.  Since then, periodic supply shortages have highlighted automakers’ reliance upon these materials.

“An increase in electric car production will raise the need for motors, which will result in higher demand for neodymium down the line,” Akira Kato, general project manager at Toyota’s advanced R&D and engineering company, told reporters in Tokyo.

“If we continue to use neodymium at this pace we’ll eventually experience a supply shortage … so we wanted to come up with technology which would help conserve neodymium stocks.”

Currently, automakers use magnets to operate motors for hybrids, other drivetrains and powering steering systems.  About 30 per cent of these magnets are comprised of rare earth elements neodymium, terbium and dysprosium.

Honda has uncovered technology that does away with the need for dysprosium and terbium which cost about $400 and $900 per Kilogram, respectively.  Honda instead bumped up the use of neodymium which costs about $100 per Kilogram.

Alternatively, Toyota has developed a way to cut out these expensive metals from its magnets by using lanthanum and cerium which cost around $5-$7 per Kilogram.

Kato did not give details on specific cost reductions, but did say that Toyota could replace up to half of the neodymium currently used in magnets for motors in gasoline-powered vehicles, including power windows, and about 20 per cent of the neodymium used in EV motor magnets.