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REEs and alternatives?

This step discusses other technologies and minerals that may possibly replace REEs.

There are mainly two ways to reduce the industrial dependence on REEs:

  • reduce the amount of REEs used in product design
  • find or innovate alternative metals to replace REEs

Unfortunately, these two strategies are only taken seriously by the automobile industry. In other applications, alternatives to REEs metals are considered less promising and therefore not the primary solution to the REEs supply challenges.

REEs can be used to produce magnets that are the most effective way to power electric vehicles. These magnets are called permanent magnets. Electric vehicles that use permanent magnets require less battery power and can drive farther than those using regular magnets. Given the skyrocketing price of REEs, decreasing REEs production, and socio-environmental concerns, many international automobile manufacturers started to rethink the use of REEs in their cars.

BMW iX3 car being charged

For example, the newly released BMW iX3 SUV is the first electric vehicle that does not need any REEs. The third-largest Japanese automobile manufacturer, Nissan, developed a new electric motor that reduced the use of dysprosium by 40%. Tesla also redesigned the motor for Model S and Model X, reducing from two motors to only one motor that requires permanent magnets from REEs. Toyota and Volkswagen also decreased the use of REEs in their design for the existing and future vehicles.

On the other hand, a new type of magnet – the ferrite magnet – is innovated to re-place the permanent magnet. The ferrite magnet is also powerful, and its magnetic field is between 0.5 and 1 Tesla. Although the ferrite magnet is not as powerful as a permanent magnet (about 1.4 Tesla) in terms of the magnet field, it is still a considerable replacement for the automobile industry due to other advantages. Automakers have started to innovate steady ferrite electric motors to replace REEs.

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Global Inequalities and the Just Transition

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