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Future Prius vehicles may use new electric motor  (Source: Toyota)
Move comes after China stopped rare earth shipments to Japan for two months

When it comes to hybrids, Toyota sells a significant number of its Prius vehicles globally (the company also sells hybrid variants of conventional models). As a result of its large stake in the hybrid market, Toyota has announced that it is developing a new electric motor for its hybrid and electric vehicles that will cut its dependence on China for rare earth materials.

The move comes after Japan and China had a diplomatic issue that led to China cutting any exports of rare earth to Japan for two months. China currently produces about 97% of the rare earth materials exported all around the world. The rare earth is needed in the electronics industry for making raw components.

China isn't the sole source for rare earth materials, however. The Associated Press reports that the U.S., Canada, and Australia all have sources of rare earth materials as well, but they stopped mining the rare earth in the 1990's because it was cheaper to source if from China. China has about 30% of the total supply of rare earths in the world.

Toyota spokes man Paul Nolasco said, "Toyota is always looking for a reduction in resources and in terms of costs."

According to analysts, the production of EVs and hybrids is still low enough that a loss of rare earth materials for a few months makes for little short-term risk. However, with the number of hybrids and EVs under development this could change in the future making it easy for China to hold rare earth materials hostage and tighten supply to drive prices up.

China is already reducing the amount of rare earths that it ships with production for 2010 reduced by 30% compared to the previous year.

Analyst Ryoichi Saito from Mizuho Investors Securities said, "This isn't a major issue right now, but as these types of cars become more popular, it becomes a big risk if supply is limited or cut off."

Toyota unveiled two new Prius models earlier this month.



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Globalization
By SeeManRun on 1/17/2011 11:37:16 AM , Rating: 2
This is a text book example of globalization, and one of its pitfalls. Not saying globalization is bad, but this is just one of its downsides.




RE: Globalization
By Kurz on 1/17/2011 12:09:40 PM , Rating: 5
Where ever you can more efficiently produce a product we should. It only becomes a problem when your own government keeps you from competing.


RE: Globalization
By FITCamaro on 1/17/2011 12:12:05 PM , Rating: 3
Which is exactly the case now. You think any old rare earth mines will reopen here in the US? Doubtful.


RE: Globalization
By avxo on 1/17/2011 12:25:25 PM , Rating: 5
Not only will they -- some are already in the process of being reopened. Molycorp, for example, has already completed the paperwork needed to restart production at a rare-earth mine in Mountain Pass, California. See http://www.technologyreview.com/energy/26980/?mod=... for the details.

It didn't make financial sense to mine for rare earths in the U.S. lately, as China exported more than enough at prices that were lower than what was economically viable for U.S. firms. But now, with China reducing exports of rare earth elements coupled with an increased demand worldwide, it was inevitable that mines here (and elsewhere) would reopen.


RE: Globalization
By Nutzo on 1/17/2011 1:36:51 PM , Rating: 5
I wouldn't count on this mine actually opening, especially since it's here in California. I'm sure there are several lawsuits already in the works by environmental groups to stop this.


RE: Globalization
By azcoyote on 1/17/2011 1:43:16 PM , Rating: 4
And those environmental groups will receive tons of cash from China to fight this. Great system we have going isn't it?


RE: Globalization
By Nutzo on 1/17/2011 2:11:10 PM , Rating: 1
Don't know about china, but with the state under complete control of the anti-business Democrats, I'm suprised they even got initial aproval.


RE: Globalization
By The Insolent One on 1/17/2011 4:12:41 PM , Rating: 3
When the Environmentalists can't buy their new fleet of Prius' (Priuses?) (Prii?) to take them to the public hearing to dispute the re-opening of the mine in California...it'll probably sink in.


RE: Globalization
By kattanna on 1/18/2011 10:57:04 AM , Rating: 3
since when has logic and thought ever been a part of crazy?


RE: Globalization
By Drag0nFire on 1/18/2011 1:35:07 PM , Rating: 2
Pluralizing "Prius" - that's a hard one.

Like "platypus": "platypuses" sounds stupid, but "platypi" sounds like something you eat...


RE: Globalization
By Alexvrb on 1/18/2011 8:17:21 PM , Rating: 3
Don't hold your breath. They'll just demand that us peasants abandon the automobile completely in favor of horses, while they keep the ever-tightening supply of rare earth metals to themselves.


RE: Globalization
By sleepeeg3 on 1/18/2011 3:33:35 AM , Rating: 2
When it becomes economically viable - it will open. Capitalism, baby. Beauty of supply and demand.


RE: Globalization
By FITCamaro on 1/18/2011 7:06:58 AM , Rating: 3
It's economically viable to drill for oil here and do many other things. However when the federal government seizes state lands where resources are and designates them nature preserves, nothing can happen on it. Look at the frozen wasteland they just made a polar bear habitat.


RE: Globalization
By Chaosforce on 1/17/2011 7:24:49 PM , Rating: 2
The Pitfall isnt in globalization, the pitfall is in the process globalization. After its all said in done its a non issue its simply just the transition.


Good job Toyota!
By masamasa on 1/17/2011 5:32:59 PM , Rating: 3
Enough with monopolies such as Opec and the Chinese and their rare earths. These are two bodies you don't want to be dependent on because both will screw you over.




RE: Good job Toyota!
By Netjak on 1/17/2011 6:09:39 PM , Rating: 2
OPEC effectively has no control over oil prices, only production quotas to some extent. OPEC represents 40% of oil production worldwide and, by definition, can not be taken as monopoly.

In regard to rare earth and china, without china prices will be quite higher. FE, ford can sell their cars at fraction of production cost and take 90% share worldwide for some time, but not forever. China has no monopoly, there is plenty of "rare earths" all over world. China was wrong and was essentialy giving away valuable resources for no good reason (taking over other competing mines, fe). Free lunch is over, back to (market) reality.


RE: Good job Toyota!
By Zaranthos on 1/18/2011 9:52:05 AM , Rating: 3
I don't know about that. If you control 40% of something people have to have you have some pretty good leverage. While 40% might not be enough control to shut down the world, it's enough to cause serious pain and more than enough to play with prices by having a little fun with supply and demand. I have no idea where fantasy meets reality here, but the power that 40% gives them is no joke.


What exactly are they changing?
By jkostans on 1/17/2011 12:52:00 PM , Rating: 3
It would be interesting to see how they are going about this. Anyone have any technical info on the new motor?




RE: What exactly are they changing?
By Comdrpopnfresh on 1/17/2011 4:10:30 PM , Rating: 2
Every Prius motor has 1kg of neodymium in it!
Toyota will switch to existing Alnico or ceramic materials, or develope something else.

without a major matsci developement, I don't think they can get a rare-earth motor alternative with similar specs.

They'll likely switch to ferrite and have to deal with lower torque and larger sizes


RE: What exactly are they changing?
By Netjak on 1/17/2011 5:41:02 PM , Rating: 2
5 kg over 1200? So what. Effieciency wise, 90 or 92% in 30% EM part - who cares.


Good luck replacing neodymium
By sleepeeg3 on 1/18/2011 3:38:49 AM , Rating: 2
So invest in NEM.to. I made 4x what I invested in it. It's worth 8x that now... Canadian rare earth metal company. Neodymium (the metal critical for electric motors for cars and wind turbines) is primarily found with other "rare earth" metals and generally is not found in isolated strains. W/o China, Toyota has to rely on other sources. Molycorp (the US company) has been defunct for years - Canada all the way. *Disclaimer I have no money in this company anymore - good luck 'vesting!




RE: Good luck replacing neodymium
By sleepeeg3 on 1/18/2011 3:43:37 AM , Rating: 2
P.S. why is neodymium so critical? It's the strongest, most affordable natural magnet on earth. There was an article within the last year of a ferrous(?) composite replacement, but I have not heard of any recent developments. AFAIK, it still stands as the ruling champion.


ho ho
By dare2savefreedom on 1/17/2011 5:47:05 PM , Rating: 2
all your rare earths are belong to we, not us and not usa




By getho on 1/18/2011 6:02:09 PM , Rating: 2
They've bled us white, the bastards.




Actually Shane. . .
By blueboy09 on 1/22/2011 10:22:53 AM , Rating: 2
it's really three models not 2. Prius V, a pure EV plug-in version, and the small Prius C (which is currently a concept but still counts as a model). To cut on rare earth material for electric components would be a wise decision for Toyota, particularly since they're already dealing a blow back for all the recalls of last year. This could send a message to consumers that they're concerned about the carbon "footprint" of their cars. Either way, they're just trying to cut expenditures for the short term? I dunno, Toyota need to think of something fast to get ahead of the game again, and I think this might help them out.




"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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