Toyota founds new way to make hybrid cars without using rare earth metals

Article by Christian A., on January 23, 2012

As you may know already, hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius use expensive rear earth metals, a domain where China has a near monopoly but it appears that these things are about to change as Toyota says that is has developed a way to make hybrid and electric vehicles without the use of those metals.

And the good news continue as the Japanese manufacturer could bring this technology to the market within two years if the price of rare earths does not come down.

For those who don’t know, rare earth metals such as neodymium and dysprosium are used in the powerful magnets in motors that power hybrid and electric cars and the price of these metals is expected to rise as mode hybrid cars hit the market. The bad news is that China produces more than 95 percent of the world's rare earth metals, and these things need to change.

And the bad news continue as China wants to limit exports citing resource depletion and environmental degradation and as a result prices surged even more. Japan is the country that accounts for a third of global rare earth demand, but it aims to cut consumption and provide subsidies for recycling.

Toyota has never stopped presenting examples of its full hybrid technology to new segments of the market and proof of this is models like the Yaris Hybrid and the Auris Hybrid. Even then, when it comes to the full hybrid powertrain design, it is still the Prius that continues to be the most celebrated. One reason is that when it comes to technological innovations, the lead still belongs to the Prius.

This is because each time the company comes out with a new generation of the Prius, fitted inside is technology that is considered to be pioneering. Take the third generation version of the Prius that was released in 2009. There is the Head-up Display where at the windscreen’s base, important information is seen.

These include the current vehicle speed and the Eco Drive Monitor. This can even show the status of the Active Cruise Control system and the Pre-Crash Safety system, though they are offered as an option. The Pre-Crash Safety system in particular integrates the Adaptive Cruise Control. Through sensors that have been placed below the front grille, it can determine the likelihood of a collision occurring and then activate the vehicle’s intelligent safety features.

Thus the pre-tension seatbelts are immediately activated, same with the audible alarm of the Brake Assist. Should the system determine that a collision cannot be prevented, it is then that the automatic brake is triggered. This therefore reduces the possible impact, and even damage, if such a situation happens. For the new Prius, it will not only have better sensorial quality for the interior but its exterior design has been redesigned.

Instrumentation has been enhanced and it is equipped with a wide selection of advanced navigation and multi-media systems. Examples include the Toyota Touch, Toyota Touch Pro, and Toyota Touch & Go Plus. For the Prius, another feature is the display switch that has been mounted on the steering wheel. This switch is the one that manages that air-conditioning, audio system, and the ECO Drive Monitor. As such, there is no longer any need for the driver to look down or even remove hands from the steering wheel.

Another innovative feature is the Intelligent Parking Assist which allows the Prius to automatically move the vehicle to the selected parking spot. To make this possible, the system utilizes a combination of a rear view camera and ultrasonic sensors to determine what the needed movements are in order to go in reverse to the parking spot. At the most, what the driver needs to do is simply manage the speed.

Topics: toyota, hybrid

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