General Motors (GM) has established a partnership with Niron Magnetics, a Wisconsin start-up, to develop electric motor magnets that can be produced without the need for rare elements, most of which are currently sourced from China. These magnets are crucial components in electric vehicle (EV) motors, and they traditionally contain “rare Earth minerals” like terbium and dysprosium. However, these minerals are largely supplied by China, which raises geopolitical and environmental concerns.
Niron Magnetics, a relatively small company based in Minnesota, claims to have patented methods to create high-performance magnets using common elements like iron and nitrogen, eliminating the need for imported rare Earth minerals. This approach not only addresses geopolitical concerns but also reduces the environmental impact of mining and processing. Additionally, it has the potential to make EV motors more cost-effective, although specific cost reductions were not disclosed by Niron.
Kai Daniels, supervising principal of GM Ventures (GM’s venture capital arm), stated, “Our teams will co-develop iron nitride motor magnet technology, which we will plan to use in future GM EVs.” This move by GM is part of its strategy to establish a domestic supply base for electric vehicles, aligning with the company’s commitment to selling only electric passenger vehicles in the US by 2035.
While the exact amount of GM’s investment in Niron was not disclosed, the total amount invested by various parties, including Stellantis Ventures and the Volvo Car Tech Fund, was reported to be $33 million, according to Niron. Niron’s magnet technology is not limited to EVs and can also be applied to other sectors, such as consumer electronics and various automotive components like fuel pumps and air circulation units.
The timeline for when GM plans to commence the production of EV motors using the new magnet technology was not provided in the announcement.