This EV Motor Works Without Rare Earth Metals, Says Tata Elxsi

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Tata Elxsi’s rare earth-free motor’s simple, robust design minimises wear. As it reshapes the auto landscape, India’s reliance on specific sources dwindles, steering away from China’s rare-earth dominance.

In a conversation with the Electronics For You team, Tata Elxsi revealed it is developing an electric vehicle motor that, instead of rare-earth metals, relies on ferrite. The company asserts that this motor will assist India and its vehicle manufacturers in reducing dependence on China for the importation of rare-earth metals. Rare earth metals, such as Neodymium (Nd) and Dysprosium (Dy), find use in permanent magnet motors globally. China dominates the production of Nd and Dy, contributing to 67% of the total, followed by Myanmar (12%), Australia (10%), and the United States (9%). Conversely, ferrite is produced by combining iron oxide with metallic elements like barium, manganese, nickel, strontium, and zinc. According to the Volza website, India ranks among the top three importers of Dy and Nd.

Moreover, this motor is touted to be economically viable for both production and servicing. Anush G. Nair, Senior Technology Manager, Electrification Practice Group at Tata Elxsi, indicated that the motor has undergone extensive testing, yielding better results than anticipated.

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“Its construction is simple and rugged, resulting in reduced wear and tear. The intricacies lie in control and software, but these should prove manageable in the long run, given their reliance on power electronics and software. India’s dependence on a specific geographical location for these components is minimal,” he explains.

Targeting this as suitable for small commercial vehicles, the company is also exploring use cases for other vehicle categories, including passenger cars and electric two-wheelers. Nair explains that this achievement will be possible once the Tata Elxsi team can lower BVH levels further.

“We are currently testing it as a concept, not a production-ready entity. We aim to qualify it as a concept.” After testing it with Tata ACE CEVs, the company envisions production within two years.

While this technology isn’t entirely new, as it is based on the SCM design, there are aspects that the company is considering for patenting. According to Nair, steady improvements have been made, and the Tata Elxsi team has contributed significantly to innovations like NVH reduction.

“Many innovations have been made, and significant inputs, like NVH reduction, have been carried out by the Tata Elxsi team. Such innovations can become patentable,” Nair mentions.

Also, positioned as a potential fit for hybrids and hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) powered vehicles, the motor has undergone testing in harsh environments. Nair asserts that it can handle the extra moisture in HFC vehicles, given its IP67 rating.

“These are more rugged than their counterparts. The serviceability of these is fine. Apart from routine problems, I do not see any other challenge. You can compare these with induction motors that we use in homes. These are as rugged as them, if not more.”

In discussions with OEMs and component makers, Tata Elxsi emphasises that it will provide the motor’s design only. Nair adds that the company can also assist customers in finding manufacturing partners.

“The product ownership lies with the customer, but the IPs around the design remain with the Tata Elxsi team.”

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