Category Archives: ACVGaps

E-Biking to the Beach Office – The Future of Rare Earths?

In the midst of a global COVID-19 Pandemic, office workers have gone “cubicle-free” and the public has become more skeptical over how to safely commute using public transportation than ever before. After creating the new verb of the decade, companies like Uber (let’s “Uber” to the show) and Lyft are being used even less frequently now for standard public transit and most often for their food delivery services — Uber just recently purchased food delivery company Postmates for $2.65 Billion after losing out on an attempted merger with industry leader Grubhub. They are expected to double-down on a newer grocery store delivery service after purchasing the majority share in the company last year.

While these delivery and ride-share companies continue to evolve to stay afloat, one thing is still certain — people require an inexpensive, reliable, and safe way to get around.

Enter the electric bicycle. It may be a game-changer for REs. As both local and federal governments are encouraging social distancing around the world, many commuters are taking to the eBike to remain active while maintaining their distance from one another at the same time, which explains why multiple eBike vendors are reporting sales spikes upwards of almost 50% since February of this year.

Lectric eBikes cofounder Levi Conlow crystallized this new trend in a recent interview: “Our customers have been saying that e-bikes are a great option for the new coronavirus-era way of living. The dramatic increase in sales shows that nationally, people are looking to shift how they get around. It’s also a fantastic option for those looking to socially isolate while getting fresh air outside.

In an eBikesHQ article comparing over 450 ebikes, the largest share of the price bracket pie for a brand new eBike was in the $1000-2000 range.

Unlike electric cars however, one of the largest selling points of an eBike is that your standard bicycle can be easily converted into an eBike with just a few hundred dollars and some tools. Independent of which wheel the motor powers or the voltage of the battery, we compared just the top 50 most popular and most recommended eBike conversion kits around. Assuming those kits advertised as best selling actually are getting the most sales, it would seem like the average consumer is paying about $760 to turn their bicycle into an eBike, battery included!

With no end to the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, and with eBike popularity skyrocketing, eBike neo magnets could be asking for a larger share of the rare earth magnet pie very, very soon. Indeed, eBikes exceeded Hybrid and EV usage of neo magnets in 2015, and were projected to account for more than 70% of Hybrid and EV neo magnet usage in 2020, at 13,000 tpa. (Source: Steve Constantinides, “The Big Picture: Putting the Magnet Market Trends Together,” Brief at Magnetics 2018, Orlando, Florida, February 8, 2018, Slide 9). That share is indeed likely even larger than projected given the sharp drop in vehicle sales in 2020. Better line up now; do you have your order for an eBike ready?

#RareEarths #RareEarthMining #RareEarthMetals #TechnologyMetals #ElectricVehicles #ElectricVehicle #EV #ElectricCar #BusinessModels #Magnetics #Magnets #SupplyChainResearch #ElectricBike


Do you know where the Rare Earths in All your Gadgets come from?

Precious rare earths metals (REM; not the band) are in our computers; they’re in our cell phones, televisions, hospitals, and trains — and more and more, they’re in our electrified vehicles.

Rare earth permanent magnet (PM) applications have grown rapidly over the past few years, and are projected to keep doing so. As market demand continues to grow for electrified vehicles and electrical gadgets that run on specialized rare earth magnets, more and more light is being shed on where these rare earth metals are actually being mined, and where some of their most strategic customers want them to be mined.

Today, China is the most dominant supplier in the rare earth metals market. However, it was not always so: the US was lead supplier of rare earths and REM technology into the early 1980s. In a post-COVID-19 supply chain world, with every supply network being re-engineered for a new level of resilience, other countries (most notably the United States) have been increasing efforts to localize their rare earth mining and reduce dependence on foreign trade to acquire them.

As rare earths applications increase, it is only natural that the call for transparency about sourcing grows with it. Responsible Sourcing is an increasing priority among participants in the RE mining and metal production business – just like in any business. It is simply good for business to be able to show you operate fairly, treat your workers well and that you buy your materials from responsible suppliers.

However, Responsible Sourcing remains an opaque issue. Rare earth mineral mines are most common in just a handful of countries, which vary greatly in size, population, regulatory approach, governance and GDP. The truth about rare earth mining practices and actual application of mining regulations is hard to find. For example, a simple google search on the status of rare earth mining regulations and status of enforcement action re: same, produces information from a decade ago that is almost the exactly the same as in 2020, (paraphrasing): “There are many calls for reform, esp. in China, but there is little actual information about the status of reform measures.”

For example, China has been making statements about plans and attempts to crack down on illegal rare earth mining for nearly a decade now. When asked about their efforts just last year, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) claimed they were making it easier to subpoena rare-earth companies practicing illegal mining, increasing penalties for being caught, and that they were establishing a “traceability system” to stop illegal market buyers. This is nearly the same thing they were saying on the subject four years ago.

As demand for rare earths rise, so will the calls for improved transparency on sourcing. The illicit mining practices taking place in the Congo over cobalt, or in Nigeria over gold, suggests a few challenges ahead for rare earths sourced from non-transparent mining interests. Very soon, leading electric vehicle companies like Tesla, Chevy (Bolt), and Nissan (Leaf) will either prove that their rare earth magnets and batteries were responsibly sourced, or watch as some sort of large industry exposé forces them into a literal mine field of public scrutiny. We’ll keep you posted.

#RareEarths #RareEarthMining #RareEarthMetals #TechnologyMetals #ElectricVehicles #ElectricVehicle #EV #ElectricCar #BusinessModels #Magnetics #Magnets #SupplyChainResearch


Autonomous and Connected Vehicles Report: Other Research and Development Collaboration Gaps

Findings from Other R&D Collaborations

  • The top gaps in this category have relatively high work-plan relevance scores, showing the significance of two or more of private sector investment gaps, 5-year time horizons and possibilities in hardware R&D among the highly interdisciplinary topics in this gap category.
  • 40% of the total number of gaps discovered (15 of 37 gaps) are binned in this “Other” category – suggesting the increasing relevance of interdisciplinary research in autonomous and connected vehicles for future R&D planning.
  • 93% (14 of 15) of gaps in this category are identified by SP as consensus gaps, demonstrating the strong interest-level indicated in primary sources in these gaps.
    • It is plausible that this category will increase in size and significance in the future and therefore VTO has a clear opportunity to explore expanding its role in the types of topics raised here.
  • The topics raised in this category are mostly multi-disciplinary, underscoring a potential role for VTO.  A more detailed review of the top five consensus gaps for this category is contained in the Recommendations section.
  • Only one gap is not a consensus gap – Balancing Vehicle Design Time with Software Upgrade Time-Cycles – and therefore is ranked at the bottom of this category.

Autonomous and Connected Vehicles Report (2016-2018)


Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions

Autonomous and Connected Vehicles Report: V2X Communications and Intelligence Networking Gaps

Findings from the V2X Communications and Intelligence Networking

  • All but one of the gaps in this category have high work-plan relevance scores, indicating again the significance of both 5-year time horizons and/or hardware R&D among the interdisciplinary topics in this gap category.
  • 30% of the total number of gaps identified (11 of 37 gaps) is classified as V2X communications and intelligence systems gaps.
  • 82% (9 of 11 gaps) of the gaps in this category are identified by SP as consensus gaps, demonstrating the strong interest-level indicated in primary sources (again, non-statistical, non-survey-based and a snap-shot in time) for these gaps.
  • The top five consensus gaps in this category are highlighted for relevance to our research work-plan:
    •  V2X software-hardware integration (all aspects of design, test, engineering and piloting of sensing and communication protocols);
    • Cyber Security (covers all aspects of making V2X communications secure);
    • Low-Cost Geo-Localization at 2-3 cm accuracy (requires many sensors, infrastructure and systems to work seamlessly together);
    • Low Cost V2X Connectivity (requires benchmarking true costs of pilot systems, and paths to cost reduction); and
    • Strategic Planning (guidance for fed-state-local governments and industry in defining needs and opportunities for integrated Smart City, Smart Grid and Smart AV Car applications).
  • Only two gaps in this category are not considered consensus gaps at this time.
    • Autonomous Vehicle Mobility Command Centers;
    • OEMs as Spectrum Providers, where the primary sources expressed a need to address the volume of data that vehicles will be producing and using in autonomous vehicle and connected vehicle scenarios.
  • Most V2X and Intelligence Networking gaps have both strong support in the AVS community and relatively high work-plan relevance scores.  This suggests opportunities to take action on many gaps in this category.
  • Synthesis assesses that VTO has opportunity to expand engagement into new technical fields because all V2X and Intelligence Networking gaps exist at the interface between software and hardware.

Autonomous and Connected Vehicles Report (2016-2018)


Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions