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Toyota Substitute’s Rare Earth Metals for Their New Product Line

Resources from the earth have been used since the dawn of man for technological advancement. Goldman Sachs, an investment firm, predicted that in 2013 there will be a rare earth surplus. Even though there are experts who refute this analysis, exploration and mining companies have set out to exploit these resources. Products can be developed utilizing these resources, thus satisfying both customers, and investors.

The Toyota Prius uses the resource neodymium. This mineral is increasing in demand because it is a metal used for building strength magnets. Analysts project that neodymium will have a significant value in the following years. Since many industries are switching to renewable energy sources, the demand for permanent magnets is increasing. These magnets are used in applications such as wind turbines, electric vehicles and electric motors. To supplement the research of these minerals, the U.S. Department of Energy is willing to offer $30 million for research in alternatives to earth elements. These alternatives are vital to securing the supply of materials and cost savings.

Dr. Chen Zhanheng who serves as a central figure in The Chinese Society of Rare Earths as Director of the Academic Department states that demand for NeFeB, or neodymium-iron-boron, will increase by 259,026 tons in the next decade, and 176,289 metric tons within the next few years. These neodymium-iron-boron magnets will primarily be utilized for the operation of wind turbines. A single wind turbine uses a ton of neodymium for each megawatt of generating capacity. With the demand for renewable sources increasing, the expected demand for neodymium will also increase.

As mentioned before, Toyota needs these minerals when constructing green cars such as the Prius. Toyota analyzed the high price of neodymium and decided to seek an alternative metal to be used in their motor vehicles. This company is currently constructing the RAV4 EV which is a pure electric vehicle; this car gets its energy from being plugged into a power source. This is Toyota’s first step in escaping the use of rare earth materials. This company is also designing a new car with a new partner, Tesla Motors who is an electric sports car manufacturer.

The Tesla motor is special because it does not require the need for magnets to power up. Instead, the motor utilizes stacked steel laminations when an electric current is produced. The laminations create a magnetic field that rotates, thus pushing the motor. The motors are able to recycle energy when the driver brakes. The regenerative braking system is used on hybrids, making the partnership between Toyota and Tesla, that much more convenient.

Toyota is making a great strategic business move. Not only have they diversified their resources, but their ambition to ensure the future developments of different vehicles is admirable. By slowly easing away from a necessary resource before the value increases, they will save on manufacturing costs in the future. Toyota’s project to develop an all-electric vehicle that is purely plug-in will attract consumers. Many drivers are slowly going green by taking the necessary steps to save our planet; soon, we may all be driving all-electric vehicles.

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Can Odd-Looking ‘Diwheel’ Be Electric Vehicle of the Future?

As the electric automobile industry tries to get manufacturers and consumers alike to think out of the box while global warming necessitates a drastic move toward cleaner transportation technology, could it be that all the revolutionary electric vehicles appearing on today’s automobile market are not really out of the box at all but just inside a slightly larger box?

When it really comes down to it, every transportation device on today’s streets, even the strangest prototype from the most cutting-edge electric start-up, is fashioned in the likeness of either a typical car frame or a typical motorbike frame. That is as true for the Smart ForTwo as it is for a van, a semi, or even an electric scooter. Each of these models is just a glorified version of either a motorbike or a car.

Whether this is a good thing or not, those two basic frames have so dominated the transportation market that they have become the automatic ground zero for practically all attempts to create cleaner, greener vehicles. Even the most revolutionary personal transportation prototypes and the most fuel-efficient, battery-powered EVs all seem to begin from one of these two given starting points, the car or the motorbike.

With this mind, undergraduates from the University of Adelaide have attempted to develop something so completely out of the box that it relies almost not at all on either of these two typical basic automobile building blocks. They have come up with a transportation machine they call the Electric Diwheel With Active Rotation Damping – EDWARD, for short. EDWARD is unlike anything you may have ever seen and is definitely no car or motorbike.

Two huge, parallel wheels make up the majority of EDWARD’s girth. Inside the hollow cylinder framed by these wheels sits the tiny passenger cabin, dwarfed by the mammoth circles that circumference it. This device is controlled by a joystick and has a top speed of about 40 miles per hour. It also boasts regenerative braking technology and a lead acid battery, identical to those found in regular cars, with a lifespan of about an hour of intensive driving. EDWARD makes use of lightweight materials for its construction and, as a result, weighs practically nothing.

Although EDWARD is certainly not the first diwheel, it is definitely the first to be powered by something other than human effort or an IC engine. EDWARD also features an active damping system that solves one of the diwheel’s major problems ever since its inception: stopping. Because of the disparity in the size of the wheels compared to the size of the passenger cabin, diwheels have been known for their jarring stops. The cabin would tend to swing forward heavily every time the brakes were applied. EDWARD solves this dilemma with a slosh control system that stabilizes the cabin and its occupants during harsh acceleration and braking.

While you probably shouldn’t hold your breath for mass production of these vehicles, what this invention really illustrates is that there is more than one way to skin a cat – in this case the cat of fossil fuels. Electric engines and lithium-ion batteries no longer have a monopoly on reducing our carbon footprint and reliance on filthy energy. There are other options.

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