Honda's reduce-reuse-recycle of rare earth materials

Honda launching rare earth metals recycling from used nickel-metal hybrid car batteries

Honda and Japan Metals & Chemicals have developed rare earth metals recycling technology which could mitigate the rare earth metals supply issues which casts a shadow over the potential these metals have in hybrid and electric cars.

One of the geopolitical power concerns in developing electric cars is the rare earth metals. China, through being the low cost provider of rare earth metals, has essentially taken over the market. China's dominance and other issues have made many worry about the wisdom of trading a dependence on foreign oil controlled by unstable-not-quite-friendly governments for a dependence on rare earth metals controlled by a not-quite-friendly government. Honda has announced a recycling process for rare earth metals the company says produces materials with purity almost as high as newly-mined metals. If put into production this could help reduce the supply concerns.

Rare earth metals have this name because of the relative scarcity of mineral deposits with a high enough concentration to be worth mining. While rare earth minerals mines exist outside of China, that country dominates the market. Some rare earth metals mines are re-opening outside of China, and new recycling technologies are being developed. Improved recycling techniques could mean an important source of rare earth metals could be worn out (or out-of-fashion) electronics gizmos that would no longer be sent to the landfills. Hybrid and electric cars use rare earth metals in some kinds of high powered motors, in some kinds of batteries, and in the electronics.

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