TOKYO -- Honda Motor Co. has developed an electric motor for hybrid vehicles that sidesteps the rising costs and uncertain supply of the rare-earth metals needed for their powerful magnets.
Honda will use the new motor this fall in a hybrid variant of its Freed, a Japan-market subcompact minivan based on the Fit architecture. Honda developed the motor with Japanese metal supplier Daido Steel Co., the companies announced last week.
By not using any heavy rare-earth metals, such as dysprosium or terbium, Honda believes it will avoid future supply bottlenecks of the sparsely distributed metals.
Daido Steel subsidiary Daido Electronics Co. will begin mass-producing the new magnets in August on a new factory line in Japan. Daido said it will use that as a launch pad to enter the market making magnets for drive motors in hybrid vehicles.
The approach uses a hot deformation method to create the magnets instead of the traditional sintering method. That allows the magnet's microscopic crystals to align in a much finer structure with great heat resistance.
Heavy rare-earth metals account for as much as 10 percent of a motor magnet's weight. The global market for rare-earth metals is expected to exceed $9 billion by 2019, growing at an annual rate of more than 14 percent through then, according to a forecast by Technavio Research. c