GM, General Electric agree to develop rare earth materials used in EV manufacturing

In yet another sign that automakers are determined to get ahead of the supply chain curve, General Motors said Wednesday it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with General Electric for the supply of rare earth materials, the kind used to manufacture electric vehicles and clean energy equipment.

The nonbinding agreement is with GE’s clean energy arm, GE Renewable Energy. In addition to rare earth materials, the collaboration will also look at ways to improve supplies of magnets, copper and electrical steel.

Initially, the collaboration will be focused on establishing a supply chain for magnet manufacturing in North American and Europe — significant, as the main producers of magnets are in countries like China, Brazil and India. The two companies will also explore new supply chains for copper and “eSteel,” a material composed in part of recycled materials, to be used in automotive traction motors and renewable power generation.

The agreement is yet another sign that North American automakers are keen to decrease their reliance on foreign countries for critical minerals. The news is prescient as both President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have called for a bolstering of domestic sources of minerals like copper and lithium, in order to stay competitive in the transition to electric-everything.

To that point, the two companies said they would also look to collaborate via public policy, to seek out policies that support the establishment of North American and European-based supply chains for these materials.

“A secure, sustainable and resilient local supply chain for electric vehicle materials is critical to the execution of GM’s vision of an all-electric future,” Shilpan Amin, GM’s vice president for global purchasing and supply chain, explained in a statement. “Motors are one of the most important components of our Ultium Platform, and the heavy and light rare earth materials are an essential ingredient in our motor magnets.”

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