During its recently-held Investor Day event, Tesla VP for Powertrain Engineering Colin Campbell announced that the electric vehicle maker’s next-generation powertrain would use a permanent magnet motor that uses zero rare earths. The comments appear to have resulted in a plunge in the stock of rare earth miners from China.
In his presentation, Campbell noted that Tesla is known for speed, not just in its vehicles’ performance but also in the company’s innovations. With this in mind, the company’s next drive unit, which will be used in its next-generation vehicle, will have 75% less silicon carbide. It will also be compatible with any battery chemistry, and its production will feature a 50% reduction in factory footprint.
Campbell further explained that Tesla is steadily reducing its use of rare earths, partly due to the materials’ health and environmental risks. In the Model Y, for example, three types of rare earths are used — the first being about 500 grams, and the other two being 10 grams each. But in the company’s next-generation permanent magnet motor, Campbell noted that Tesla would use zero grams of rare earths.
As noted in a Bloomberg News report, Campbell’s announcement seems to have affected investors in China. Following the Tesla executive’s comments, shares of rare earth miners JL Mag Rare-Earth Co. and Jiangsu Huahong Technology Stock Co closed down more than 7% in mainland China. China-based suppliers to Tesla such as Ningbo Xusheng Group Co. and Ningbo Tuopu Group Co. appear to have reacted to Investor Day and its theme of reducing costs as well, with the former dropping 7.6% and the latter dropping 5.3%.
Shanghai Metals Market analyst Yang Jiawen noted that while Tesla’s statements could mean a big blow to the rare earth industry, it would be best to be cautious for now. “It would be a big blow to the rare earth industry if there is a complete substitute to rare earth based on current technology. Without Tesla disclosing any information on possible substitutes, I am cautious on the news,” the analyst said.
China is a major player in the global mining and refining of rare earths. These materials are used in a wide range of products, including smartphones, electric vehicles, and military hardware. However, the world’s dependence on China for the supply of rare earths has become a growing concern for global businesses, particularly amidst the geopolitical tensions between the country and other industry giants such as the United States.