Ford champions reduction in rare earth metals in next-gen hybrids
by Jon LeSage on September 17, 2012
For the third-generation hybrid system powering the Fusion Hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid, Ford expects to be using about 500,000 pounds a year less of expensive and uncommon rare earth metals. Reduction of rare earth metals in the lithium-ion batteries and the hybrid system's electric machines lowers vehicle costs as Ford ramps up its production of hybrids and electric vehicles over the next years, allowing the automaker to offer more affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle choices to customers. Of course, since the reduction is partly due to the shift from nickel-metal hydride batteries to more efficient li-ion packs, this is in some ways an apples-to-oranges comparision.
The rare earth metals neodymium, cerium, lanthanum and praseodymium were used in previous editions of Ford hybrids with their NiMH batteries. None of those four are used in Ford's new lithium-ion batteries. Ford is also reducing by 50 percent the amount of the most expensive rare earth metals that it acquires, dysprosium, by implementing a new diffusion process used in the magnetic manufacturing process of the magnets employed in the hybrid system's electric machines.
Ford says the reduction of rare earth metals is important for both financial and physical reasons. The cost for the lithium-ion batteries for Ford's third-generation hybrid systems is reduced 30 percent from the previously used NiMH batteries. They weigh less (by about 50 percent) and don't need as much storage space since they are 25 to 30 percent smaller. This means better fuel efficiency - a projected 47 mpg for Fusion Hybrid and an EPA-certified 47 mpg for C-MAX Hybrid.
In its press release, Ford neglected to mention yet another reason for reducing rare earth metals: geopolitics. About 95 percent of rare earth metals come from China. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology can ban or severely limit the amount that will leave the country, a power that can be quite stressful for automakers needing access to the metals for their hybrids and electric vehicles.Permalink | Email this | Comments
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