During Tesla’s Investor Day in March 2023, the company revealed that its upcoming generation of electric motors will not contain any rare earth materials. As a major player in the electric vehicle (EV) market, Tesla’s transition to a rare earth-free design could have significant implications for the sustainability and overall design of electric motors.
While Tesla’s early vehicles used an induction motor, the company later switched to a permanent magnet (PM) motor with the release of the Model 3 in 2017, resulting in greater efficiency and power density. However, the downside to PM motors is the use of rare earth materials, which can be costly and environmentally damaging to extract.
While some manufacturers have opted for induction motors to avoid rare earth concerns, these designs can be heavier and less efficient overall. Tesla has suggested that its new motor will be rare earth-free, but it will still be a PM motor. The company may have achieved this through a combination of developing magnetic alloys with stronger field strength and increasing the motor’s size to maintain output.
While details of the new design and materials used are not yet known, if other automakers follow Tesla’s lead, this could shift the market towards a more sustainable and less price-sensitive alternative to rare earth magnets. IDTechEx’s report, “Electric Motors for Electric Vehicles 2022-2032”, explores the types of electric motors used in EVs, including emerging alternatives like axial flux and in-wheel motors, and considers the EV market for various vehicle types and regions, with material demand forecasts up to 2032.