Earlier this year, we noted that Japan's Toyota was loosening China's stranglehold on rare earth metals, not through any policy harangue or through extra mining of its own, but via good old innovation.
As we reported via Reuters, the $249 billion car maker "has developed a way to make hybrid and electric vehicles without the use of expensive rare earth metals, in which China has a near monopoly."
It turns out that Toyota is hardly alone among Japanese manufacturers, many of whom are also developing technologies that work around China's export restrictions on rare earths, the metals used in everything from cars to wind turbines to iPods and light bulbs, just to name a few common items.
Asahi Shimbun recently ran a round up enumerating similar initiatives. Among them:
- Honda Motor Corp. plans to start extracting and recycling rare earths from nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrid cars.
- In February, Panasonic Corp. introduced recycling equipment that extracts neodymium magnets from home electric appliances. Panasonic will use the neodymium - a rare earth element - in air conditioner compressors, drum washer motors, and other products.
- TDK Corp. will slash the amount of rare earth dysprosium that it uses to make magnets for cars, by developing a magnet in which it paints dysprosium onto the surface rather than mixing it into the body.
If you can't beat 'em, innovate!
Rare earth stories aren't rare on SmartPlanet:
- Your next refrigerator could be a magnet
- China raises rare earth exports
- Solve the energy AND rare earth crisis: Join the thorium bank
- China cuts off rare earths. World War ensues. It’s Call of Duty, the video game.
- The two-timing White Knight of U.S. rare earth metals
- U.S., allies seek China’s rare earths resolution
- America’s only rare earth metals mine gears up
- Toyota breaks out of China’s rare earth shackles