Tesla Shift Away from Rare Earths to Spur Magnet Race: Report

Photo: Tesla

Tesla is hoping to do away with rare earths needed to make batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), even after removing some from past battery configurations.

The shift will point to automakers needing more and more magnets, which Bloomberg says will shift the narrative to a magnet race in the coming years.

The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y powertrains reduced consumption of some rare earths, and the automaker’s upcoming drive unit is set to feature a permanent magnet motor without any of the materials, according to Vice President of Powertrain Engineering Colin Campbell.

Ferrite magnets are among the top candidates as alternatives, and are made up of iron and mixed with other materials such as barium, strontium and more — both of which are more widely available than current resources used and are cheaper.

Campbell stated the fact at Tesla’s Investor Day, as it hopes to avoid environmental processes commonly associated with humanitarian health risks, and market volatility. Additionally, Tesla will seek to continue driving down prices.

Automakers BMW, Toyota, General Motors and more have also stated plans to reduce reliance on these resources, though challenges remain for those hoping to make the shift, experts say.

Rare earth permanent magnet supply chains are considered “a key concern for the industry within the geopolitics of critical materials,” says Nils Backeberg, Project Blue founder. “Use of cheaper — though less performance- and efficiency-focused — technologies is likely to become more widespread.”