Role of substitution in mitigating the supply pressure of rare earths in electric road transport applications

Elsevier, Sustainable Materials and Technologies, Volume 12, July 2017
Pavel C.C., Thiel C., Degreif S., Blagoeva D., Buchert M., Schuler D. et al.

The development of new high-efficiency magnets and/or electric traction motors using a limited amount of critical rare earths or none at all is crucial for the large-scale deployment of electric vehicles (EVs) and related applications, such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and e-bikes. For these applications, we estimated the short-term demand for high-performing NdFeB magnets and their constituent rare earths: neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. In 2020, EV, HEV and e-bike applications combined could require double the amount used in 2015. To meet the global deployment target of 7.2 million EVs sales in 2020 proposed by the International Energy Agency, the demand for NdFeB in the EV sector might increase by up to 14 times in only 5 years (2015–2020). Due to concerns about the security of supply of rare earths some manufacturers have decided to develop and adopt alternative solutions. By assessing up-to-date available component substitutes, we show that the permanent magnet synchronous-traction motor (PSM) remains the technology of choice, especially for hybrid vehicles (HEV and PHEV). Better material efficiency and a larger adoption of motors free of rare earths have the potential to reduce the pressure on rare earths supply for use in electric road transport applications. However even if such substitution measures are successfully implemented, the demand growth for rare earths in the EV sector is expected to increase significantly by 2020 and beyond.