Prices for rare earth elements have gone through the roof in recent years, with China basically monopolizing the market for these rare substances (the country currently produces a whopping 97 percent of all rare earths used globally). But in the field of electric vehicles, the dependence on rare earths could be a thing of the past soon: Professor Nobukazu Hoshi’s Lab from the Tokyo University of Science has developed an electric car that doesn’t require any kind of rare earths.
The current prototype (a re-modeled Mazda Roadster from 1999) is powered by a 400V/9.5kWh hybrid car motor. The lithium-battery consists of five modules that are sized at 215x335x210mm and weigh 20kg each. Professor Hoshi developed a so-called switched reluctance motor that boasts an output of 50kW – no rare earth elements required.
In the video embedded below (shot by Diginfonews in Tokyo), the professor explains the technology behind the motor and points out there is room for improvement (specifically, he wants to boost torque and energy efficiency and push down noise and vibration).
Still, a pretty impressive accomplishment for a university lab (Toyota is working on a rare earths-free engine for electric cars, too).
Here’s the video (in English):