A £2.6m (€3m) project in the UK is aiming to recycle rare earth materials used in the magnets in motors for electric vehicles, starting with luxury car maker Bentley.
The Rare Earth Recycling for E-Machines (RaRE) project aims to establish an end to end supply chain to incorporate recycled rare earth magnets into electric vehicles. This will allows recycled magnets will be built into an ancillary electric motor to ultimately support the development of a commercial ancillary motor suite.
Key to the project is a patented process for extracting and demagnetising neodymium iron boron (NdFeB) alloy powders. This process was originally developed by Magnetic Materials Group (MMG) at the University of Birmingham (UoB) to recover rare earth magnetic material in scrap and redundant equipment. This process, called Hydrogen Processing of Magnet Scrap (HPMS) has been licensed to HyProMag, a local startup that includes the former and current heads of the MMG.
The project is funded by InnovateUK and includes HyProMag and Bentley Motors, part of the Volkwagen group. Bentley will use motors designed by Advanced Electric Machines Research, whose customers include Airbus and Tevva Motors. Other partners include electronic waste specialist Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions and Tier One automotive supplier Unipart Powertrain Applications.
Intelligent Lifecycle Solutions will establish the scrap sorting process to maximise process efficiency and rare earth material volumes, while HyProMag will develop a pilot line for making the recycled magnets. These will be built into the ancillary electric motor designed by AEMR to a Bentley specification. Unipart will then take the motor design and use it as the core focus for the design of a flexible volume motor assembly line suitable for production volumes of 100,000 units per year.
“RaRE is an exciting project and a fantastic opportunity to prove the importance and worth of short loop recycled magnetic material,” said Nick Mann, Operations General Manager of HyProMag. “NdFeB magnets are essential for many future technologies, and the emerging electric vehicle market is of increasing importance. Being involved at this level means we not only get to work with and supply recycled magnets to some of the most innovative and globally recognised companies, but also allows us to influence the design of products with the aim of making recycling a better option in the future.”
Innovate UK is providing £1.9m with project partners funding the remaining £700,000. HyProMag’s contribution will be fully funded from a £300,000 investment made by Maginito, a subsidiary of Canadian mining company Mkango Resources. The deal in January 2020 for 25 per cent of the company. Maginito has the option to acquire up to 49 percent of HyProMag and has an exclusive one year license for the HMPS technology.
HyProMag’s pilot line will be part of a recycling facility for NdFeB magnets at Tyseley in Birmingham to supply NdFeB magnets and alloy powders for a wide range of markets including automotive and electronics. This includes hydrogen decrepitated (HD) demagnetised powders suitable for magnet producers, alloy ingot re-melted from HD powders suitable for alloy feed or magnet production, anisotropic alloy powders (HDDR) for bonded magnets and the sintered NdFeB magnets for the RaRE project. It expects to see the first sales from Tyseley in three years’ time.
“We are very excited about this innovative project and the opportunity to scale up and commercialise the HPMS technology,” said William Dawes, Chief Executive of Macinto majority owner Mkango. “We envisage that recycling of rare earth magnets will play a key role in the development of robust supply chains to catalyse and support growth in the electric vehicle sector and in other clean technologies.”
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