Will the future Technology roadmap of permanent magnet motors be “less heavy rare earth and more light rare earth”?



Jun 8, 2023

In the global electric drive of new energy vehicles, permanent magnet motors account for nearly 90%. Among them, heavy rare earth permanent magnets such as dysprosium and terbium are added, which have high magnetic energy product and high Coercivity. The corresponding rare earth permanent magnet motor is highly praised for its small size, light weight, high efficiency, good characteristics and a series of advantages. However, due to the limited reserves of heavy rare earths in rare earth mines, with the popularization of new energy electric vehicles and the large-scale production of rare earth permanent magnet motors both domestically and internationally, the use of heavy rare earths will face resource shortages and bottlenecks. At present, some developed countries have already used low weight rare earth permanent magnets in motor products.

As a type of metal element with special physical and chemical properties, it has been widely used in many high-tech fields. There is a vivid metaphor in the market that if oil is the blood of industry, then rare earths are the vitamins of industry, especially for the automotive industry. In permanent magnet motors, neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) is one of the most commonly used permanent magnet materials, with high residual magnetism and energy product. And its three rare earth components, neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), and dysprosium (Dy), are of great help in improving the dynamic magnetism and heat resistance of motors, extending their lifespan, and reducing noise. Therefore, despite its high cost, permanent magnet motors have always been the mainstream configuration for new energy vehicles.

Dayang Electric Corporation recently said in its organization survey that the rare earth permanent magnet synchronous motor is the mainstream Technology roadmap of the drive motor for new energy vehicles at present, with a conversion efficiency of more than 90%. At present, the future Technology roadmap may develop in the direction of reducing the use of rare earth, specifically, using less heavy rare earth and more light rare earth.

In general, the rare earths used in motors refer to heavy rare earths, such as terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), holmium (Ho), neodymium (Nd), praseodymium (Pr), and other elements. Different motors use different heavy rare earth elements due to their low inventory and high cost. Now, companies are turning to using more light rare earths and reducing the use of heavy rare earths.

The entire motor industry is beginning to develop towards reducing the use of rare earths, especially in reducing the use of heavy rare earths.

Recently, Niu Mingkui, the general manager of Zhejiang Fangzheng Motor Co., Ltd., stated in an interview with reporters that there is a significant difference in the reserves and prices of heavy rare earths and light rare earths. For example, the current market price of praseodymium neodymium is over 700000 yuan/ton, while terbium is as high as over 20 million yuan/ton. The cost of lanthanum cerium based rare earths is lower, only a few tens of thousands of yuan/ton. So, the industry has achieved good results in promoting the cancellation of heavy rare earth elements and reducing the use of light rare earth praseodymium neodymium.

Niu Mingkui also analyzed this from three aspects: firstly, the global rare earth reserves are sufficient to be used without any anxiety; Secondly, under the current technological development conditions, the use of rare earths in motors has decreased significantly compared to before, and the dependence on rare earths has decreased; Once again, it is worth mentioning that with the development of the motor recycling industry, rare earth materials for waste motors can achieve nearly 100% purification and recycling in technology, which is also an important source of rare earth. The rare earth materials used to manufacture one motor may be used to produce two new motors in the future, “he said. With the continuous growth of the new energy vehicle market in the future, motor recycling may be an important source of rare earth materials, and” rare earth peak “is also expected to be achieved ahead of schedule. At that time, rare earth materials may achieve organic Dynamic equilibrium like new energy vehicles.


As a resource rich country, China has chosen to use new energy as a breakthrough point to promote industrial transformation, whether it continues to maintain high-energy intensive operations or to “scratch the bones and heal the wounds” of its existing industrial system.

We can also see that in recent years, China has continuously made significant moves in the field of new energy, promoting its development through policy support, market introduction, enterprise support, and other means. In 2022, the National Key R&D Plan “Special Report on New Energy Vehicles” proposed to study efficient rare earth free drive motors and accelerate the development of ultra efficient rare earth free motors. This means that rare earth free motors have entered the national important technological strategic reserve and become the “new blue ocean” in industrial product equipment, becoming a new driving force on the path of resource transformation!

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