China loves to be in everybody’s strategic supply chains. Rare earths is one of them. These are the minerals, often dug out of mines in Africa, that China controls.
China’s rare earth exports fell to 35,448 tons last year from 46,330 tonnes in 2019, customs data showed on Thursday. The 2020 exports were the lowest since 2015, according to Reuters.
Last month, China’s export control law (ECL) went live. It’s their latest effort to control the export of strategic commodities — including minerals used for EV batteries — and to increase dependency on China by ‘hoarding’ supply.
Around 73% of rare earth elements are used in mature industries, including glass, ceramics and metallurgy. The remaining 27% are used in the production of neomagnets, which are essential components in electric vehicles (EVs).
Using the force produced when two magnets with opposing poles repel each other, electric motors use permanent magnets and coils that have been magnetised by electricity to propel an axle. The force (torque) of the spinning axle is used to power the wheels of an electric car.
Induction-based electrical motors, which do not use permanent magnets, can also power EVs. However, they are an unpopular solution compared to their magnetic cousins. Tesla, one of the only holdouts in induction motors, has used a magnetic engine in its new Model 3.