GM, Niron Magnetics Team Up for Sustainable EV Magnetics
Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet has the potential to create truly sustainable electric vehicle motors. This article reviews the challenges in sourcing magnetic materials and Niron’s approach and partnership with GM.
One of the more necessary yet less discussed aspects of electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing is sourcing magnetic materials for motors. A crucial aspect of EV production, magnetic materials are often difficult, unsustainable, and energy-intensive to source, significantly negating the purported impacts of EVs on the environment.
Magnets are used in EV motors. Image used courtesy of Niron Magnetics (screenshot at 1:15)
Minneapolis-based Niron Magnetics is reimaging EV magnetics by creating permanent magnetics without critical materials. Niron is collaborating with GM to develop the Clean Earth Magnet in future EVs.
Electric Vehicle Magnetics
The heart of an EV powertrain is its motor, which relies heavily on permanent magnets for efficiency and performance.
Specifically, traditional EV motors use magnets made from rare earth elements like neodymium and dysprosium. However, a major challenge arises in sourcing these materials, including environmental concerns, high costs, and geopolitical risks associated with their supply chain.
Many EV components rely on magnetics. Image used courtesy of Stanford Magnet
One challenge is that rare earth mining and processing have substantial environmental impacts, often involving toxic waste and significant carbon emissions. Additionally, the global supply of rare earth elements is dominated by a few countries, leading to potential supply chain vulnerabilities.
This reliance on rare earth elements has been a critical EV industry challenge, driving the need for alternative technologies.
Niron’s Approach to Clean Earth Magnet Technology
Niron Magnetics' groundbreaking Clean Earth Magnet technology focuses on producing high-performance permanent magnets without using rare earth elements.
Niron's approach integrates advanced nanomaterial engineering with established metallurgical methods, resulting in magnets that offer high performance at a significantly reduced cost compared to rare-earth-based alternatives. The company's manufacturing process is built on more than a decade of research and development, centering on the precise manipulation of the crystal structure of iron nitride to produce strong magnets. This method contrasts sharply with the traditional production of rare earth magnets (like NdFeB magnets), which are labor-intensive, costly, and environmentally detrimental.
A Niron employee performing quality checks. Image used courtesy of Niron Magnetics
Instead, Niron Magnetics' solution uses inherently more magnetizable materials produced at a lower cost. Their patented, scalable process allows for high-powered magnets using iron and nitrogen—commonly available, globally sourced, and sustainable materials.
Niron, GM Collaboration
The GM, Niron Magnetics collaboration centers on developing the world's first automotive-grade permanent magnet free from rare or heavy earth minerals. This technology is expected to reduce the dependence on rare earth minerals in EV motors and contribute to scaling GM's North American-based EV supply chain.
So far, Niron has raised $33 million in its most recent funding round from companies, including GM and Stellantis. These funds support the scaling of the company’s manufacturing capabilities and the commercialization of its sustainable magnets.