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EVs and hybrids are threatening to make the U.S. dependent on another dangerous foreign resource source -- China. Hybrids use twice the lanthanides as standard vehicles, and China controls 95 percent of lanthanide deposits.  (Source: Toyota)

China outguessed the U.S. and now stands to reap the rewards. Expert Robert Bryce estimates it will take 10 to 15 years for the U.S. to begin to tap its own lanthanide deposits.  (Source: ESPI Metals)
China outguessed the U.S. when it came to rare earth metals -- it may take 15 years to bring U.S. mines online

The auto industry seems to be moving towards embracing hybrids and electric vehicles.  One needs only look at examples like the 2011 Nissan LEAF and 2011 Chevy Volt, or the the new Chevy Volt MPV5 EV-crossover concept.

However, there's growing concern that the industry is casting a rather blind eye to what exactly the impact of its leap might be.  While about a third of U.S. oil comes from unstable regions like Nigeria and the Middle East, EVs present perhaps an equally challenging geopolitical resource problem.

According to Robert Bryce, author of the book "Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future", the current third-generation Toyota Prius uses 25 lbs. (11 kg) of expensive rare-earth metals -- approximately twice the amount found in a standard vehicle.

That's a big problem as rare earth metals, known scientifically as lanthanides are almost exclusively controlled by China.  Could this stranglehold slow progress of these new vehicles and hasten China's ascent to the world's most dominant economy?  These are concerns that Bryce has been voicing.

Bryce describes,"95% and 100% of the world’s supply of this entire row of the periodic table [is controlled by China]."

The biggest uses of lanthanides are in the battery pack and electric motor of hybrids and EVs.  Bryce believes that lanthanide demand will outpace supply as early as 2013, slowing the industry's growth and allowing China to raise its resource prices.  He states, "There are no significant supplies (of lanthanides) that can come on stream in anything close to the time span the market need."

Currently, 100,000 tons (90,718 t) per year of lanthanides are manufactured and utilized.  That figure is expected to soon rise.  Bryce says, "Estimates are that within two-three years the market demand will be 120,000-130,000 tons (108,862-117,932 t) per year."

Worldwide there's 99 million tons (89.8 million t) of rare earth metals, but it's expensive and tricky to tap these reserves.  It also takes time -- up to 15 years.  The U.S. currently has no working lanthanide mines, though it does have lanthanide resources.  

The bottom line is that China outguessed the U.S. and the rest of the world, wisely recognizing the value of the resource in 1980s and early 90s and committing to the expensive up front investment to harvest them.  Now 10 to 15 years later, it is reaping the rewards, while the U.S. is left wondering what to do.

China is well aware of its position and plans to fully exploit it now.  Former Communist Party leader Deng Xiaoping remarked some time ago, "There is oil in the Middle East, there are rare-earths in China; we must take full advantage of this resource."

Bryce warns that the rush to EVs and hybrids may put the U.S. in a bind.  He states, "In this headlong rush to go ‘green,’ we are essentially trading one type of import reliance for another.  We are going to be more dependent on a single market, where there’s no transparency and one dominant market player who happens to own most of our debt already."

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RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By porkpie on 5/1/2010 6:10:52 PM , Rating: 2
See the "O2" in CO2? From where do you think that comes?

RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By FITCamaro on 5/1/2010 11:14:20 PM , Rating: 2
That still implies that the fuel is pure carbon.

RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By porkpie on 5/1/2010 11:23:21 PM , Rating: 2
It nearly is. Take a hydrocarbon such as heptane, for instance: C7H16. That's a molecular mass of 100, of which 84% (7*12) is carbon.

RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By usbseawolf2000 on 5/2/2010 12:01:32 PM , Rating: 3
Hydrogen atomic weight = 1
Carbon atomic weight = 12
Oxygen atomic weight = 16

Gasoline is C8H18. Total atomic weight for gasoline is 114. After the combustion, carbon will bond with two hydrogen -- C8O16. Total atomic weight would be 352. This is why every pound of gasoline create 3.1 pounds of CO2 emission.

How many gallons of gas do you use daily? Multiply that by 20 to get the weight of CO2 (lbs) you emit daily!

RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By porkpie on 5/2/2010 12:16:09 PM , Rating: 2
"Gasoline is C8H18. "

All correct except for this bit. Gasoline is a mix of many different hydrocarbons. At one point in the dim past, gas with a 90% octane rating was 90% iso-octane...but due to better anti-knock additives today, the ratio of lower-weight heptanes, hexanes, etc is now much higher.

Plus of course you have oxygenates, ethanol, and many other chemicals added for various reasons.

RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By FITCamaro on 5/2/2010 2:39:55 PM , Rating: 2
I don't really care how many pounds of CO2 I'm emitting.

RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By usbseawolf2000 on 5/2/2010 5:43:25 PM , Rating: 2
But it is good to know. 2010 V8 Camero would emit CO2 41 times the weight of the car (3,860 lbs) if driven for 150,000 miles.

For 2010 Prius, it would emit CO2 20 times its weight (3,042 lbs).

RE: Let's put it in perspective!
By ekv on 5/3/2010 4:53:53 AM , Rating: 2
meh. Not enough, heh?

How about a 1935 Duesenberg SSJ?

Or, Bugatti Veyron Fbg par Hermès?

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