The days of rare earth e-motors are numbered

The quest for a truly sustainable vehicle extends far beyond the tailpipe. From battery materials to manufacturing processes, numerous aspects of the value chain are ripe for cleaning up. At Advanced Electric Machines (AEM), the focus is on the motors in electric vehicles (EVs). “The permanent magnet motors currently going into most EVs are a ticking timebomb for the environment,” asserts AEM Chief Executive James Widmer.

Today’s EV motors rely on rare earth metals for their performance, but the extraction and processing of those materials is fraught with environmental side-effects. A 2021 study from the Kleiman Center for Energy Policy found that every tonne of rare earth material mined produces up to 1.4 tonnes of radioactive waste, 200 cubic metres of acid-containing sewage water, 60,000 cubic metres of waste gas containing hydrochloric acid, and 27.6 tonnes of CO2.

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