Archive for December 11th, 2012
If you drive a hybrid vehicle, you’ll know a few things about it. You’ll know that you’re saving gas and reducing your emissions. You’ll know that it has a high “cool” factor. What you probably don’t know is that you’re driving around on top of roughly 60 pounds of rare earth elements.
Hybrid engines are a combination of a battery-powered electric train drive and a traditional internal combustion engine. Rare earth elements (REEs) are an important component: they are used by the hybrid’s nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, the electric traction motor and the regenerative braking system (which recaptures energy generated while braking and returns it to the battery).
While the penetration of hybrid electric vehicles hasn’t been speedy, it has been steady. Today, there are more than two million of them on U.S. roads. As gas prices escalate, more Americans will likely turn to hybrid and electric vehicles, which will drive up the need for rare earth elements. The problem is, some rare earth elements are, as the name implies, rare — and getting rarer. Read the rest of this entry »