Neodymium (Nd) magnets provide the highest torque densities to electric motors. However, Nd is considered a critical material for Europe because the demand will exceed the production in the following years and the production is not in Europe. 

The LowREEMotors project aims at reducing the neodymium-dependence of Europe by developing magnets that will partially substitute some of the Nd for less critical materials like cerium (Ce). In this context, the implementation of alternatives in the composition of the magnet, such as alloys containing cerium (Ce), could alleviate the need for raw materials of Nd by up to 6-10%. 

It is known, however, that Ce-based magnets have less performance than Nd magnets, which makes it necessary to redesign the electric machine to optimise the implementation of these new magnets and to ensure that the resulting machine is competitive with current technologies. 

Alternatives for rare earth elements

The LowREEMotors project will design, manufacture and test two different electric machines that will replace existing equivalent Nd-based motors. The motor redesign will start at the Ce-substituted alloy formulation, followed by shaping the magnet by powder injection moulding (PIM), all the way to modifications to the actual electrical machines.

The consortium will combine a strong expertise in electrical machine design of Mondragon University and Valeo, as well as a full expertise in PIM feedstock development of Montanuniversitaet Leoben, and magnet manufacturing of CEA and Magneti Ljubljana. KU Leuven will perform the life cycle assessment to determine the environmental impact of the new magnets and machines.