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Focus on magnets directly linked to drive motor efficiency

Technical proposals are being made by OEMs and Tier 1s worldwide to reduce the cost of drive motors and ensure stable procurement of materials.

Next to the drive battery, the drive motor is one of the most expensive components on its own. Among the main materials used to make up motors, the two that have been attracting attention in recent years are electromagnetic steel sheets and magnets, and OEMs and Tier 1 companies are increasingly making technological proposals for magnets, which are directly linked to motor efficiency. In particular, the industry is focusing on the stable procurement of neodymium (Nd), dysprosium (Dy), terbium (Tb) and samarium (Sm), which account for the highest proportion of magnet materials used. Specifically, in order to enhance magnetism and retention, which are the criteria for magnet performance, and to further improve motor performance, magnet suppliers, particularly in China, are actively engaged in a “recipe” competition to enhance magnet properties by blending Nd, Dy, Sm and Tb in a certain ratio. However, this is only the case in the Chinese market, where materials can be stably procured.

Outside of China, the key issue is how to secure such magnet materials and ensure a stable supply of magnets. As a measure to address the risk of securing magnet materials, Tesla has announced that new models to be launched around 2025 will be equipped with drive motors that use rare earth-free magnets. On the other hand, motors that do not use magnets themselves are being proposed, particularly by European OEMs, and the use of wire-wound field motors (EESM) and induction motors (IM or ASM) is also noticeable. However, some issues remain, such as efficiency problems with motors that do not use magnets, and there are cases where OEMs using motors that do not require magnets have been forced to use them. Therefore, magnets, which determine the efficiency of drive motors, their material procurement and the creation of ideal recipes are expected to continue to attract more and more attention as a competitive point.

This section summarises the main suppliers of drive motors for electric vehicles worldwide, the supply chain by major material and sector, such as motor cores, windings, magnets, electromagnetic steel sheets, etc., the main players, and overall motor-related aspects including production, procurement and supply.