Rare earth is a double-edged sword, becoming the lifeblood of the new energy automobile industry
In 2010, China's total rare earth export quota for the whole year was reduced by nearly 40% compared with 2009, which is unprecedented in the history of China's rare earth export. As soon as this news came out, the global automobile industry, which has relied on China's rare earths for many years, was immediately panicked. For the first time, the simple term rare earth has been frequently mentioned in major international conferences.
What is rare earth, and how powerful is it that can trigger such a strong butterfly effect?
Who is relying on rare earths?
Jack Lifton (Jack Lifton), an independent mineral analyst and strategic metals research expert, called the Toyota Prius Hybrid "the most used rare earth product on the planet." Since China, the world's largest exporter of rare earths, has begun to strictly control the export of rare earths and drastically reduce the export volume, Prius is very likely to face the embarrassing situation of forced suspension of production.
China stated that the export quota for rare earths in 2010 will be reduced to 60% of 2009. Japan’s imports of rare earths from China in October alone dropped 43% from September.
As the world's first hybrid vehicle to be put on the market and currently the most successful, with the largest production and sales volume, Toyota Prius has gained popularity in the European, American and Japanese markets. Last year, the annual sales of a single model exceeded 400,000. Each electric Prius motor requires 1 kg of neodymium (Nd) elements. Each battery requires 10 to 15 kilograms of lanthanum (La) element. Toyota plans to increase the fuel efficiency of the Prius, which experts say will double the demand for rare earth metals. Both neodymium and lanthanum are rare earth metals. The former is used to make high-power, lightweight magnets for electric vehicle engines and wind generators, and the latter is mainly used in vehicle batteries. Under current technical conditions, once the rare earth metals are lacking, Prius can only stop production.
Nicolas Meilhan, a senior consultant at Frost & Sullivan, said in the Reuters Global Automotive Elite Group: “Electric vehicle manufacturing requires rare earths. Any car equipped with an electric engine also needs rare earth metals.”
Rare earths, known as "industrial gold", play an irreplaceable role in military, metallurgy, petrochemical, and new materials. For example, permanent magnet materials made of rare earths have 4 to 10 times higher magnetic properties than ordinary permanent magnet materials. In particular, neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets are currently found to have the highest magnetic properties. They are called "super magnets" and "modern permanent magnets". The king of magnetism". Because of the unique advantages of rare earths in permanent magnet materials, rare earths have become a key raw material for motors and batteries used in hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles, and are irreplaceable and unique in the manufacturing process of new energy vehicles.
日本第三大铜生产商三菱物资公司(Mitsubishi Materials Corp)打算从2014年开始推出一项商业化服务，即从废旧磁铁中回收稀土金属。另外，日本工程师就宣布正在开发一种新型的用于混合动力车的电机，这种电机就不需要从中国进口的稀土。日本的新能源和工业技术开发组织称已经开发出电机用的铁基磁性元件，研究机构声称新的磁铁性能与采用稀土的磁铁相同。他们甚至称，新电机的成本仅是采用稀土电机的十分之一。
In fact, China's rare earths account for only one-third of the global reserves, while the United States and Europe also store large amounts of rare earths, but they "snow" them. China exports a large amount of rare earths but has never had the right to set prices. There are a series of problems such as extensive development methods and serious waste of resources. In particular, some companies have weak environmental protection awareness and serious environmental pollution during the mining process. Domestic experts believe that after long-term export of rare earths at low prices without considering environmental costs, it is only natural for China to start restricting rare earth exports.
What is rare earth?
Rare earth refers to the lanthanides in the periodic table of chemical elements. Lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), praseodymium (Pr), neodymium (Nd), promethium (Pm), samarium (Sm), europium (Eu), gadolinium (Gd), terbium (Tb), dysprosium (Dy), Holmium (Ho), erbium (Er), thulium (Tm), ytterbium (Yb), lutetium (Lu), as well as two elements closely related to the 15 elements of the lanthanide series, scandium (Sc) and yttrium (Y) total 17 These elements are collectively referred to as rare earth elements (Rare Earth). Referred to as rare earth (RE or R).