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Toyota readies cheaper EV motors

Toyota’s EV charger

Toyota Motors is readying electric motors that use much as 50 per cent less in rare-earth metals amid concern of a supply crunch as automakers race to expand their electric vehicle (EV) line-ups.

Toyota has developed a magnet for their motor design that halves the use of the rare-earth metal neodymium and eliminates the use of terbium and dysprosium, replacing them with metals which cost 20 times less than neodymium.

Toyota believes that demand for neodymium will exceed supply from 2025.

Motors with the magnets can be used in any electrified powertrain, the company said.

Rare-earth metals, along with elements such as lithium and cobalt, are seeing soaring demand from a growing EV market, propelled mainly by increasingly stringent emissions restrictions worldwide.

China, which is home to the world’s biggest auto market and the leader in EV sales, supplies more than 80 percent of rare-earth metals globally.

The potential for volatility in the market for the minerals was exposed last year when a clampdown on illegal Chinese miners caused neodymium prices to surge by almost a third in one month.

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BP invests in mobile EV charging

BP to invest $5 million in U.S. mobile electric vehicle (EV) charging company FreeWire, helping it provide rapid charging at its retail sites in Britain and Europe.

Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive, BP Downstream, said: “Mobility is changing and BP is committed to remaining the fuel retailer of choice into the future. EV charging will undoubtedly become an important part of our business, but customer demand and the technologies available are still evolving.”

“Using FreeWire’s mobile system we can respond very quickly and provide charging facilities at forecourts where we see the greatest demand without needing to make significant investments in today’s fixed technologies and infrastructure. The opportunity also to explore options for providing charging services away from our existing retail sites makes FreeWire an ideal partner for BP.”

BP’s rival Royal Dutch Shell, who last year agreed to buy Dutch-based NewMotion, owner of one of Europe’s largest EV charging networks.

The expected rapid growth in the use of electric vehicles in the coming decades is threatening oil companies’ business model as demand for some road fuels could plateau as early as the late 2020s.

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Getting Kiwis ready for the EV wave

Drive Electric, a non-profit group, has outlined five key priorities the new government should support due to the electric vehicle wave moving towards New Zealand.

Drive Electric has a board of many industry leaders including electricity, financial services and transport. Its goal is to mainstream EVs and educate the public and corporate sector about the benefits of EVs.

Drive Electric chairman, Mark Gilbert says the priorities help identify many of the changes that come with switching to EVs.

“Transitioning New Zealand’s fleet to electric vehicles won’t happen overnight, but the change is already underway with more than 5000 EVs on the road today,” Gilbert says.

“The country needs to be prepared for these changes, which involves investigating how to deal with issues that will disrupt the status quo.”

Some of the changes that need to take place include making sure both office buildings and people’s homes are safe for EV charging and ensuring there is sufficient public charging infrastructure to complement home charging.

Gilbert says New Zealand also needs to look at the bigger global picture.

The incoming transition to electric vehicles means planning for bigger and better infrastructure.

“It’s also important to note that electric vehicles aren’t just about cars, with many heavy vehicles going electric too. This requires infrastructure planning.”

Gilbert says Drive Electric looks forward to the government providing more information on how it plans to push EV technology in the future. This should mesh with autonomous vehicles (AVs) as well, as AVs aren’t that far away.

“As a country that’s a technology taker, we should be prepared. Our legislation on vehicles doesn’t prevent AVs from using our roads, so they will be here as soon as right-hand drive vehicles are available.”

“The UK government is investing heavily in this mode, so it stands to reason that right-hand drive vehicles will start their life in UK, or Japan, and very quickly find their way to New Zealand.”

 Drive Electric’s priorities are:
1. Project ‘Switch’, which encourages the government to offer companies Fringe Benefit Tax relief on new EVs for a period to accelerate EV uptake in corporate fleets.

2. Home charging infrastructure – consider regulation or requirements around safety ratings for car chargers being installed in homes (eg. worksafe approval programme); checking the charging capability (Home WoF) to ensure future proofing of home charging options for customers.

3. Encourage local government bodies to invest in and install public charging infrastructure – especially in areas where housing density means no garaging like inner-city Wellington and Ponsonby.

4. Encourage all forms of public transport to be electrified by 2040 at the latest. This could be linked to cleaner air targets and possible emissions incentives, and where necessary, penalties for high emitters, including the public fleet.

 5. Communicate that NZ will follow the strategy of major right-hand drive automobile markets, for example Japan and the UK, in reducing/stopping the sale of fossil fuel vehicles from 2030.

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Researchers unlock fast-charging secret

A new battery design being developed in Philadelphia could be the answer to near-instant EV battery charging.

A team of researchers at Drexel University, working with colleagues in Israel and France, has designed a new battery electrode using a highly-conductive two-dimensional material called MXene.

The new design can charge batteries in seconds, which researchers say could solve a key issue with EVs. Future battery charging could take less time than a petrol refill.

The ectrode design uses highly conductive MXene nanomaterial.

Previous research has studied the use of supercapacitors in EVs, which release energy in large bursts but are ineffective for long-term energy storage, which would be necessary for a battery.

The team at Drexel have used MXene to boost the energy storage volume of a supercapacitor. By changing the structure of the electron, the researchers were able to make ions flow freely.

“In traditional batteries and supercapacitors, ions have a tortuous path toward charge storage ports, which not only slows down everything, but it also creates a situation where very few ions actually reach their destination at fast-charging rates,” said researchers Maria Lukatskaya.

“The ideal electrode architecture would be something like ions moving to the ports via multi-lane, high-speed highways instead of taking single-lane roads. Our macroporous electrode design achieves this goal, which allows for rapid charging – on the order of a few seconds or less.”

The team said that it is unclear exactly how the battery could be upscaled for use in a vehicle, but that it would completely end change the way batteries are used if they wound up in an electric car.  

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