The automotive supplier Schaeffler has signed a five-year contract with the Norwegian company REEtec for the purchase of rare earth oxides. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2024.
The declared goal is to make electric motors for hybrid modules, hybrid transmissions and purely electric axle drives more sustainable. Among other things, this involves neodymium, which is used in permanent magnets – these are installed in permanently excited synchronous machines.
Rare earths like neodymium largely come from China. By sourcing from Europe, Schaeffler wants to make itself less dependent on China for its increasingly important business with electric motors. Although China is not part of the supply chain, it is not completely European either: according to the Schaeffler announcement, rare earth carbonates produced by Vital Metals in Canada are processed at the REEtec plant in Herøya near Porsgrunn.
“We are transforming into an e-motor supplier and are ramping up significantly,” Andreas Schick, the executive board member responsible for operations, told Reuters news agency. “Therefore on the rare earth side we need competent partners, not only going through the standard supply chain through China, we need a local supply chain for Europe.”
The only thing is that it is unclear what quantities the Norwegian partner can supply. In the Reuters report, REEtec CEO Sigve Sporstol stated that the company’s new technology uses less energy. However, he left open what quantities of rare earths REEtec will be able to supply in the year. Schaeffler does not name any specific delivery quantities in the communication, but only states that it will secure “the demand for neodymium-iron-boron magnets for electric motors” through the partnership.
As reported, Schaeffler has been manufacturing electric motors in large-scale production since 2021 and offers its customers power classes from 20 to over 300 kW.
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