It is no secret that one of the primary materials of electric vehicles is magnetic. For them to drive the electronic motors, their composition includes kilograms of magnetic materials. As of 2019, statistics indicated that more than 80% of their global population use motors which are permanent magnetic based. Essential materials of the magnets are dysprosium and neodymium, and the earth materials are hard to come across. It is hard to come across them, and the globally leading producer of the same is China. Some years back, almost a decade since the incident took place in 2011, there were dysprosium and neodymium export limitations in China. Consequently, the price rose by 2000% for the former and 750% for the latter.
In addition to high price volatility worries, the materials also pose a danger to the environment. That is ironic since the sole purpose of transitioning to electric vehicles is to protect the same. However, it delivers the no-emission problem, which is good for the environment. The problem is the rare-earths that create the magnets that they use. During their extractions, they are usually trapped amidst radioactive materials, and a good one is thorium. The separation needs carcinogenic compounds such as hydrochloric acid, ammonia, sulfate, and the worst part, not in small quantities. Therefore, by the end of creating a tonne of the rare-earths, you will also have 2000 times the toxic waste
There have been proposals to eliminate or reduce rare-earths when manufacturing motors from vehicle manufacturers. The likes of BMW, Audi, and Renault have recently started using rare-earth alternatives. Renault has settled for copper windings for the Zoe, whereas Audi’s e-tron uses an aluminum rotor induction motor. The truth is that the number of permanent magnet motors keeps increasing despite efforts to reduce rare-earth. Between 2015 and 2019, the percentage of permanent magnet-based motors risen from 79% and 82%. The reason is understandable since its efficiency improves the driving range. While Tesla used copper induction motors for Models S and X, they settled for the permanent magnet motor when making models 3 and Y. Another notable effort is China’s control in rare-earth supply.
Despite that, the reduction of the same by the Electric Vehicles manufacturer is indisputable. Besides, they use motors that use less magnetic materials than previous versions. For instance, Honda and Nissan’s likes that were among the original equipment manufacturers are reducing and eliminating dysprosium. Now, the problem is the increasing demand for Electric vehicles. Regardless of the reduction of the magnetic materials, the need for the same will increase with time. Hopefully, things will be under control, eventually.