General Motors and Stellantis are investing in the development of magnets for EVs without the harmful rare earth materials exploited by China
November 11, 2023

General Motors and Stellantis are investing in the development of magnets for EVs without the harmful rare earth materials exploited by China

General Motors i Stellar have announced their investment in Niron Magnetics, a startup specializing in innovative magnetic technology, in a strategic move aimed at reducing dependence on Chinese rare earth materials in production electric vehicles (EV). This collaboration is part of a broader initiative to revolutionize the materials used in EVs and marks a key step in reshaping the automotive industry's supply chain.

Niron Magnetics recently closed a financing round of $33 million, in which GM and Stellantis actively participated, he writes DigiTimesAsia. The focus of this collaboration is the development of permanent magnets for EVs without the use of rare, harmful materials from the earth, a key ingredient in the current production of electric vehicle engines.

Jonathan Rountree, CEO of Niron Magnetics, highlighted the importance of permanent magnets in vehicles, especially in the drive system of future EVs. He stated during the conference call: “Permanent magnets are essential components of many parts of your vehicle.”.

Most of the supply of rare earth magnets, about 90%, currently originates from China

The move follows China's announcement in October that it will require export licenses for some graphite products, which are also used in electric vehicles, raising awareness of the auto industry's vulnerability to geopolitical dynamics.

Although the financial details of the investment were not disclosed, sources familiar with the deal indicated that General Motors invested $7 million and Stellantis $5 million. Anirvan Kumer, president of GM Ventures, expressed optimism about Niron's technology, stating: “We believe Niron's unique technology can play a key role in reducing rare earth materials from EV engines and help us further develop the EV supply chain in North America.

Permanent magnets are essential to EVs, as they serve as the basic components that enable power to be transferred into motion. Traditionally, these magnets are made from rare-earth materials such as terbium, dysprosium, praseodymium and neodymium, which are not only expensive but also mostly processed abroad.

Niron Magnetics aims to disrupt this paradox with its nitride magnet, branded as “Clean Earth Magnet“, which it claims has better magnetic properties than traditional magnets made of neodymium and praseodymium. By using readily available and economical materials, Niron aims to reduce the environmental impact associated with the extraction of rare earth materials and improve the sustainability of EV production.

Commenting on the potential impact of Niron's technology, Adam Bazi, managing partner of Stellantis Ventures, pointed out: “Making powerful magnets from abundant commodity materials decouples new production from rare earth mine development and reduces the overall negative environmental impact.”

It is worth noting that this collaboration between GM, Stellantis and Niron Magnetics comes on the heels of GM's 2021 agreement to purchase rare earth magnets from MP Materials. Despite the challenges MP faces in processing its own rare earth materials in California, the partnership with Niron indicates GM's continued commitment to researching innovative solutions for a more sustainable EV future.