Rare Earths: Tesla to use permanent magnet motors in Model 3 Long Range models

Roskill view: Documents released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have indicated that the Model 3 RWD Long Range carline will use a 3 phase permanent magnet motor as the powertrain motor, as opposed to asynchronous reluctance (induction) motors used in the Model 3 RWD standard and the Model X AWD vehicles.

The smaller size/weight, higher torque density and improved efficiency of permanent magnet motors compared to induction motors make them attractive for use in HEV and EVs, as they provide better acceleration, reduce vehicle weight and allow greater space for other components. The majority of HEV models use permanent magnet motors, solely for their space/weight saving benefits as vehicles must also include an internal combustion engine and associated equipment, unlike pure EV models. Some EV models already use permanent magnet motors, either as the traction motor or generator, including the Chevrolet Bolt. It is expected that other models will introduce permanent magnet motors to improve their performance and range as the EV market becomes more competitive.

Sales of HEV/EVs totalled 3.2M in 2016, with HEVs and plug-in HEVs forming 76% of sales. By 2020, sales of HEV/EVs are forecast to reach 9.4M units, with EVs forming 42% of sales. Though not all EV models are expected to use permanent magnet motors, demand for rare earth elements used in permanent magnets is forecast to increase by 10.5%py through to 2020, which will place significant strain on existing rare earth mines and processors.

Neodymium (Nd) and praseodymium (Pr), the two rare earth elements which form the majority of rare earth permanent magnets, have seen prices increase significantly in 2017. Nd oxide (FOB China) prices averaged US$48.7/kg in July, compared to US$38.9/kg in January, an increase of 21.1%. Prices for NdPr alloys (FOB China) have increased by 34.3% over the same period reaching US$66.76/kg in July. Prices are expected to increase further in 2017 as demand increases and the Chinese dominance of supply restricts availability for many consumers.

Roskill’s Rare Earths: Global Industry, Markets & Outlook report will be published in October 2017. Click here to download the brochure or to access further information.

To discuss the rare earths market with Roskill, contact David Merriman: merriman@roskill.com, Suzanne Shaw: suzanne@roskill.com, or Nils Backeberg: nils@roskill.com.