We’ve all heard of rare earth metals in relation to their role in consumer products, but what are they and what do they actually do?
There are 17 elements that make up this rare earth category, some of which have found their way into handheld tech devices and most of which are very hard to find outside of China. According to the famous book-turned-dot-com “The Dictionary,” rare earth elements aren’t as much rare as they are difficult to mine because they don’t like to be separated from one another.
Therefore, the process of obtaining them can be pricy, and it’s not just phones that use them. Electric vehicle motors do too and, according to Engadget, a crackdown on illegal mining in China last year caused certain elements to balloon in cost, leaving auto manufacturers struggling to find a cost-effective way to circumvent their necessity.
It seems Toyota is the first to find one – or at least the first to share it publicly. The manufacturer has said that it’s invented a magnet that will eliminate the need for two of the rare earth elements commonly used in EV motors, and cut the need for a third in half. According to Automotive News, there are other rare earth metals that Toyota can now use in their place, but they cost significantly less and aren’t facing the same supply shortages the company is predicting for the current elements in use.
Reports are speculating that not only will this support Toyota’s effort to sell 5.5 million EVs by 2030 by keeping its costs down, but it also might help Toyota offer these vehicles at a lower price than its competition, lending to a sales boost as well.