Report: Rare Metal Shortage Could Affect Hybrid Production

Wednesday, Sep 2, 2009  |  Updated 4:15 PM CDT
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Report: Rare Metal Shortage Could Affect Hybrid Production

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A shortage of rare earth metals could soon impede production of the Toyota Prius and other hybrid cars, according to Reuters. Hybrids--specifically, the electric motor and battery--are made with a rare class of elements also used in consumer electronics. As China begins to limit exports, the resulting supply crunch could result in a shortage of 40,000 tonnes of rare earth metals annually within the next several years, unless manufacturers can find other sources, the report said.

Among the 15 elements in question is neodymium, an alloy component used to make the lightweight magnets inside the electric motors for the Prius, Honda Insight, and Ford Focus, according to the article. Each Prius, for example, uses over two pounds of neodymium, while each battery uses about 25 to 30 pounds of lanthanum. This is only going to get worse as demand for green tech-infused vehicles increases in the face of global warming and rising U.S. fuel economy requirements.


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