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Honda steps up hybrid attraction

Magnezone: Honda has teamed up with Daido to develop a new neodymium magnet which does away with the reliance on rare earth materials.

Honda and Daido join forces to build a better magnet for hybrid drives

Honda logo14 Jul 2016

CHEAPER, high-performance magnets for use in electric motors for hybrid cars have been developed by Japanese car-maker Honda and steel manufacturer Daido.

The joint venture effort has resulted in the production of a hot deformed neodymium magnet containing no heavy rare earth materials, which was previously required to give the magnets high heat resistance and strong magnetic performance.

The companies are claiming it as the first “practical application” of the rare-earth-free technology for the use in an electric hybrid’s driving motor and will be installed in Honda’s Jazz-based Freed people mover –set to go on sale only in Japan before the end of the year.

Daido said the neodymium magnets have the highest magnetic force among all magnets in the world but must also have high heat resistance properties, which was previously achieved by adding heavy rare earth metals such as dysprosium and terbium.

The company also said the use of heavy rare earth elements is difficult in terms of “stable” procurement and material costs, meaning the development of neodymium magnets for hybrid vehicles has overcome a major hurdle.

Daido Electronics, a subsidiary of Daido Steel, said it had been producing neodymium magnets using the hot deformation method, which results in a much smaller crystal grain structure for better heat resistance.

The electronics arm will now ramp up production and shipment of this magnet using a new production line that the company built at its Nakatsugawa City factory in Japan.

Honda’s involvement in the joint-development of new neodymium magnets resulted in the development of newly designed drive motors using magnets with a revised shape, leading to a highly heat resistant neodymium magnet with high magnetic performance suitable for use in a hybrid vehicle’s drive motor.

Honda’s new motor design accommodates the reshaped magnet, as well as a revised rotor shape to “optimise the flow of the magnetic flux of the magnet,” the Japanese car-maker said, although there were no specific details on improvements over the current electric hybrid systems.

The company is planning to make first use of the new technology in its Sport Hybrid i-DCD, an Intelligent Dual Clutch Drive hybrid system that will drive the all-new Freed. Honda will continue expanding the application of this technology to new models in the future, but there were no specific models mentioned.

Honda Australia public relations manager Neil McDonald said the brand had no plans to bring the Freed to Australia.

“From a technology point of view, we’ve seen Honda’s pursuit of that with NSX and other hybrid technologies,” he said. “Honda is at the forefront of developing these new systems.

“Specifically with this one, the Freed is a Japan-only vehicle, but we look at all opportunities with the new technology but we won’t be getting the vehicle here.

“You never say never and the business case would have to be pretty robust, we already have the Odyssey people mover that is doing pretty well in that segment, but it’s not a big segment so the challenge of launching a hybrid people mover would be quite extraordinary.”

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