Britain could revive domestic production of super strong magnets used in electric vehicles and wind turbines with government support, it has been reported.
This would reduce the UK’s dependence on supplies from China and achieve vital reductions in carbon emissions, two sources told Reuters.
A UK government-funded feasibility study will be released on Friday, outlining steps Britain needs to take to restart production of rare earth permanent magnets, the sources said.
Magnet factory would help Britain, which is currently hosting Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, meet its goal of banning gasoline and diesel cars by 2030 and cutting emissions of carbon to net zero by 2050.
British production of magnets ended in the 1990s when the industry discovered it could not compete with China.
But with the huge growth in demand, the government is keen to ensure sufficient supplies.
Last month, the UK government laid out plans to achieve its net zero strategy, which includes spending £ 850million ($ 1.15 billion) to support the deployment of electric vehicles and their chains. supply.
The study describes how a factory could be built by 2024 and possibly produce enough powerful magnets to power 1 million electric vehicles a year, the sources said.
“We are looking to reverse the trend of shipping all of this type of manufacturing to the Far East and resurrect manufacturing excellence in the UK,” a source said.
The government affairs ministry declined to comment on details of a possible magnet factory because the report was not released.
“The government continues to work with investors through our Automotive Transformation Fund to advance plans to build a globally competitive electric vehicle supply chain in the UK,” an official said. .
EV is ramping up
British rare earth company Less Common Metals has completed the feasibility study and plans to seek partners to jointly build the plant, the sources said.
LCM is one of the only companies outside of China to process rare earth raw materials into special compounds needed for the production of permanent magnets.
Auto manufacturers will need the magnets to increase production of electric vehicles in Britain.
Ford announced last month that it would invest up to £ 230million in an English factory to produce around 250,000 EV power units per year from mid-2024.
Rare earth element neodymium magnets are used in 90% of electric vehicle motors because they are widely considered to be the most efficient way to power them.
Electric cars with these magnets require less battery power than those with regular magnets, so vehicles can travel longer distances before recharging.
A race by automakers to increase electric vehicles and countries to switch to wind power is expected to tenfold demand for permanent magnets in Europe by 2050, according to the EU.
The sources said government support would be vital for Britain to compete with China, which produces 90% of the supply.
The strategy reflects similar efforts by the EU and the US to create domestic industries of raw materials, rare earth processing and permanent magnets.
Updated: November 5, 2021, 13:17