New Hitachi motor removes dependence on rare earth

April 12, 2012

Japanese high-tech firm Hitachi Wednesday unveiled an electric motor that does not use "rare earth," aiming to cut costs and reduce dependence on imports of the scarce minerals from China, according to news agency AFP.

The prototype 11-KW motor does not use magnets containing rare earth and is expected to go into commercial production in 2014, the company said.

Hitachi started work on the project in 2008. Other Japanese firms, including automaker Toyota, have been working towards the same goal, spurred on by high prices of the minerals.

Permanent magnet motors usually contain rare earth such as neodymium and dysprosium and are in increasing demand for the growing number of hybrid and electric vehicles.

Japan has been seeking to reduce its dependence on rare earth and to diversify sourcing to cut its reliance on China, which has more than 90 percent of global supplies and has moved to restrict production and exports.

Rare earth are used to make a wide range of high-tech products, including powerful magnets, batteries, LED lights, electric cars, iPods, lasers, wind turbines and missiles.