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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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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.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
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