GM, GE join forces for rare earths supply
Put weight behind supply North America, Europe supply chains Metal Tech News – October 13, 2021
Last updated 10/19/2021 at 3:02pm
With the global transition to electric vehicles charged with renewable energy creating massive new demands for rare earth materials and magnets, copper, and electrical steel, General Motors and GE Renewable Energy are working together to evaluate opportunities to improve supplies of the materials critical to a low-carbon future.
"A secure, sustainable and resilient local supply chain for electric vehicle materials is critical to the execution of GM's vision of an all-electric future," said Shilpan Amin, GM vice president for global purchasing and supply chain. "Motors are one of the most important components of our Ultium Platform, and the heavy and light rare earth materials are an essential ingredient in our motor magnets."
According to a recent report by the European Raw Materials Alliance, 95% of all EVs contain rare earth permanent magnets, which leverage the naturally occurring strong magnetic force offered by rare earth elements such as neodymium or dysprosium to power EVs down the highway.
EV motors can be made without these permanent magnets by creating magnetism with electric current. These motors, however, draw much more power from the battery pack, which means larger batteries and less range.
Similarly, the wind turbines made by GE and others are made much more efficient by rare earth magnets.
ERMA estimates that renewable energy and EVs will drive the demand for rare earth permanent magnets from 5,000 metric tons in 2019 to 70,000 metric tons per year by 2030.
In addition to rare earths, the transition to e-mobility powered by low-carbon energy sources is driving enormous new demands for conductive metals such as copper and electrical steel.
More information on the growing demand for copper can be read at Renewable revolution energizes copper in Critical Minerals Alliances.
Electrical steel, also known as eSteel or silicon steel, is an iron-silicon alloy that is gaining growing notoriety due to its use in renewable energy applications in the cores of motors, transformers, and generators.
This softer type of steel can generate different magnetic properties, has high permeability (ease of passage by various molecules) and low amounts of core loss (demagnetization of a magnetic core due to alternating magnetization).
With more innovative technologies becoming available and at such a rapid pace, it is expected that eSteel will become ever more prevalent in the green energy transition.
Knowing that the transition to renewable energy will require much more rare earths, copper, and eSteel, GM and GE are working together on improving supplies of these energy materials.
"At GE Renewable Energy, we constantly innovate, both through our productions like the Haliade-X, the most powerful offshore wind turbine built today, as well as by developing strategic collaborations that can help us accelerate the energy transition," said GE Renewable Energy Chief Technology Officer Danielle Merfeld. "Working with GM gives us another tool to obtain a reliable, sustainable, and competitive source of key materials going forward that will help us lower the cost of renewable energy and drive more electrification by making EVs a more viable option for consumers."
This collaboration is initially focused on creating North America- and Europe-based supply chains of vertically integrated magnet manufacturing.
As further part of the agreement, GE and GM will evaluate potential cooperation to support the development of new technologies and processes for both automotive and renewable power generation applications.
One of the largest contributions of this collaboration between the automotive and energy behemoths is their engagement from a public policy perspective to seek policies that are supportive of the establishment of secure, North American-, and European-based supply chains for rare earths, copper, and electrical steel materials needed to support EV and renewable energy generation technology growth.
"We are also excited to partner with GM to explore opportunities to develop critical supply chains in the U.S. and further reduce CO2 emissions," said Merfeld.