Toyota, maker of the popular Prius hybrid car, is developing a new type of electric motor to cut its dependence on rare earth metals and lower costs, a company spokesman said Monday.
Prices for rare earth elements have gone up in recent years, with China basically monopolizing the market for these rare substances (the country currently produces a whopping 97% of all rare earths used globally needed for many high-tech products, including the current generation of hybrid gasoline-electric motors). The new technology will help free the world's No. 1 automaker from relying on China.
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.
The company has not released any specific uses or timeline for the new motor, he said.
In the video embedded below, the Professor Nobukazu Hoshi's Lab from the Tokyo University of Science 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).
Here's the video: