Hitachi introduces motor without rare earth

Japanese electronics firm unveils electric motor that eliminates need for rare earth minerals, amid global tension over China's restrictions over export of the resource.

Japanese electronics firm Hitachi has unveiled an electric motor made without rare earth minerals, that is aimed at cutting costs and reducing the dependence on the import of the metals from China.

In a statement Wednesday, Hitachi said it had developed an energy-efficient midsize industrial motor for air blowers in factories and buildings, as well as pumps, that did not use rare earth metals.

Local daily Nikkei noted that the new motor eliminated the need for rare earth minerals by using an iron core based on a proprietary amorphous metal. "This allowed it to achieve comparable performance at a sharply lower cost, considering prices of rare earth metals have skyrocketed since the Chinese government restricted exports," the report quoted the company.

Hitachi's motor proprietary material
replacing rare earth

Hitachi, in the statement said that it started work on the project in 2008, spurred on by high prices of the minerals, and aimed to commercialize the motor in 2014.

"In recent years, there has been increasing interest in technology for resolving environmental issues such as global warming, and increasing the efficiency of electric equipment. From the viewpoint of resource depletion, the need for replacement and recycling of rare earth and other materials is increasing," it added in the Japanese-issued statement.

The news follow the recent joint complaint by the European Union (EU), Japan and the United States to the World Trade Organization (WTO), to challenge China's export restrictions on raw earth materials. The minerals are critical components for the manufacturing of high-tech products.

China is the top rare earth producer globally, providing some 90 percent of the world's supply.