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Tesla Model 3 Long Range encourages neodymium rarity

Tesla's shift to magnetic motors using neodymium in Tesla Model 3 Long Range has added to pressure on the supply of rare earth metals which for years have been shunned due to export bans by major Chinese producers. Efforts by governments around the world to reduce fossil fuel emissions are driving demand for lithium and cobalt which are the main ingredients for batteries.

Now focusses are shifting to neodymium where some automakers have used permanent magnet motors that rely on metals because they are generally lighter, stronger and more efficient than induction motors based on copper coils.

Tinuku Tesla Model 3 Long Range encourages neodymium rarity

The neodymium-iron-boron magnet market is now worth more than US$11.3 billion with demand rising at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5 percent between 2010 and 2017. Global demand of 31,700 tons in 2017 already surpassed the supply of 3,300 tons. Demand is expected to increase to 38,800 tons by 2018.

Neodymium prices are now around US$70 per kg, well below US$500 when China withdrew shipments to Japan in 2010 for consecutive above disputed islands, but is still 40 percent higher than in 2017. China continues neodymium exports in the year 2015 as an effort to support clean vehicles, but imposes strict export quotas.

Rare earths are found in many places around the world, but difficult and costly extraction processes which require separation of several different metals from a single deposit. China has invested heavily, but tough rules against mining are expected to slow supply.

Toyota Motor Corp. said it has found a way to reduce its use in electric motors by up to one fifth. The company says it has developed more abundant and cheaper lanthanum and cerium magnets to replace neodymium.


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