Less Heavy Metals

About ten years ago, Honda, Japan’s third-largest automaker, vowed to minimize its use of rare earth metals in manufacturing cars. This week, the company took a step closer to that promise with the unveiling of its latest hybrid motor. As a matter of fact, Honda is the first automaker to develop a hybrid motor that uses less heavy metals.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

The hybrid motor is co-developed with Daido Steel, another Japan-based company. It doesn’t use heavy rare earth metals such as dysprosium and terbium. It instead relies on magnets from Daido steel. This material costs 10 percent less and is 8 percent lighter compared to the components used previously. According to Honda, the new engine will minimize its reliance on expensive rare heavy metals that are primarily supplied by China.

Back in 2010, China temporarily banned the export of rare earth minerals to Japan after the two countries engaged in territorial disputes.

Getting There

The new motors will be made available to the public this fall in the compact Freed minivan. The vehicle is already available in Asia. The redesigned motor is still not completely free from the use of rare heavy metals for it still contains neodymium, which can be found in North America, China and Australia.

"This technology will lower our costs and reduce our exposure to price fluctuations," one official from Honda told reporters. Honda is aiming to produce more hybrid vehicles including gasoline-electric, plug-in, battery-electric and fuel cell hybrids to compose two-thirds of its lineup by 2030.

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