Britain could revive domestic production of super strong magnets used in electric vehicles and wind turbines with government support, reducing its dependence on China and achieving significant reductions in carbon emissions, two sources with direct knowledge said. said.
The government-funded feasibility study, due to be published on Friday, will show the steps Britain will take to restart production of rare earth permanent magnets, sources said.
A magnet factory will help Britain host the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, meet its goal of banning petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
British production of magnets disappeared in the 1990s when the industry found it could not compete with China. But with the huge increase in demand, the government is keen to secure adequate supply.
Last month, the government planned to achieve its net zero strategy, which includes spending $1.15 billion to support the roll out of electric vehicles (EVs) and their supply chain.
The study outlines how a plant could be built by 2024 and eventually produce a magnet powerful enough to supply 1 million EVs a year, said sources reading the report.
“We want to send all such manufacturing to the Far East and revive the manufacturing excellence of the UK,” said one of the sources.
The government’s trade department declined to comment on details about the potential magnet factory because the report has not been released.
“The government continues to work with investors to advance plans to build a globally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK through our Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF),” a spokesperson said in an email.
EV ramp up
British rare earth company Les Common Metals has put together a feasibility study and is looking for partners to jointly build the factory, sources said.
LCM is one of the only companies outside China that transforms rare earth raw materials into the specialized compounds needed to make permanent magnets.
Automakers will need magnets as they ramp up EV output in the UK. Ford said last month that it would invest up to $310 million in an English plant to produce about 250,000 EV power units annually through mid-2024.
Rare earth magnets made from neodymium are used in 90% of EV motors as they are widely seen as the most efficient way of powering them.
Electric cars with these magnets require less battery power than normal magnets, so vehicles can travel longer distances before being recharged.
A race by automakers to get EVs and countries to switch to wind power is due to boost demand for permanent magnets in Europe by tenfold by 2050, according to the EU.
Sources said government support will be crucial so that Britain can compete with China, which produces 90% of the supply.
The strategy reflects similar efforts by the European Union and the United States to create domestic industries of raw materials, rare earth processing and permanent magnets.