The hybrid electric vehicle of Prius produced by Toyota usually consumes a large number of rare earth metals. Without rare earth, Prius can be seriously threatened by the probability of production halt. In recent years, the shortage of rare earth forces the automakers led by Toyota to move heaven and earth to get rid of the dependence on rare earth.
The two largest automakers including Toyota and Honda have already produced hybrid electric vehicles with the best prices. Last year, the global sales of Prius reached 400 thousand. Recently, the Japanese enterprises have accelerated the speed of introducing the pure electric vehicles to the global market. However, the production is based on the large consumption of the tombarthite metals which are the key raw materials for the production of electrical machines and electric batteries of hybrid electric vehicles. Each electrical machine for Prius needs one kilogram of neodymium and each electric battery needs 10 to 15 kilograms of lanthanum. Neodymium and lanthanum both belong to the tombarthite metals. The former can be used to produce the magnets with high power and light weight, and the latter can be used to produce the vehicle battery and improve the refractive index of camera lens.
Many years ago, the Japanese enterprises depended on the importation of rare earth to meet the demands inside the country. However, the increasing shortage has come up with a serious problem for all the industries in need. Rare earth is a kind of non-renewable resource. The main supplier countries have already restrained the exportation of the resource so as to protect the resource. According to the research, the demand of rare earth in future has to face with the shortage of 40 thousand tons. Some countries have to recover the production of the tombarthite which was stopped a few years ago.
Because of the production of hybrid electric vehicles, electric machines and batteries, it is difficult to reduce the shortage. The prices of rare earth metals have been greatly increased in recent years. For example, the price of lanthanum has been raised sharply in China. It is necessary for the enterprises in need to spread the channels of getting the tombarthite and look for the alternative resources. The recycle technology should also be developed.
Compared to the traditional vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles usually consume too many raw materials including rare earth. The manufacturers should actively improve the production technology so as to avoid the environmental pollution.