Tag 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: Final Recommendations and Conclusions

Major Recommendations

The following summarizes recommendations from Synthesis’ FY17 work.  These recommendations focus on autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles (vehicle-to-anywhere (V2X)), and LiDAR sensors.  They provide the “consensus” viewpoints, based on Synthesis’ ranking of information collected from 100s of primary sources and 1,000s of secondary sources evaluated during FY17.

  1. There is a clear opportunity and need to address the challenge of integrating software and hardware for future mobility applications, particularly mobility use-case-driven R&D gaps in software-enabled, V2X systems are expected to grow significantly.

  2. A taxonomy or roadmap of R&D gaps in autonomous and connected vehicles is needed to depict the attributes and categories of technical gaps.  In this regard, there is an opportunity to lead R&D data collectors to collect, categorize, and quantify the priority or relevance of specific types of R&D gaps– especially in the fast-changing and growing LiDAR, sensors, autonomous and connected vehicle research spaces.

  3. Support for engagement in hardware-oriented sensor R&D, including in:
    a. Substrate-level (e.g., increase wafer size) R&D
    b. Embedded electro-optics design and engineering (e.g. improve imaging resolution, resilience, accuracy)
    c. Glass materials development (e.g., address reduction of REs, and add improved optics and machining properties)
    d. Application-specific electro-optical engineering (e.g. learning-by-doing manufacturing and electrical engineering for human transport applications, in terms of cost, quality and performance)

  4. Two gaps in the V2X and Intelligence Networking category are consensus gaps and deserve VTO’s immediate attention:
    a. R&D on Low-Cost Geo-Localization with 2-3 cm accuracy: Opportunity for design and engineering of low-cost sensors and sensor fusion systems that enable required accuracy for reliable autonomous vehicle applications.
    b. V2X Software-Hardware Integration: Opportunity for guidance, independent test, validation and understanding for software-hardware integration for highly specific AV use cases.

  5. The following top five consensus gaps in the Other R&D Collaboration gap category are recommended for VTO’s immediate attention:

    a. Fundamental Competition at Core Technology Level (e.g., Robotics, Machine Vision, AV Sensor Requirements):

    The need is for more clarity, commitment, and investment regarding the core figures of merit, the baseline current state and the targets for future R&D – all to accelerate potential breakthroughs in these fields.

    b. Scalability of Autonomous Vehicle Engineering (Hardware, Software, Multi-Context, Global Implementations)

    The need is to investigate AV engineering approaches across a spectrum of operational contexts (e.g., city, urban, people-transport, things-transport, logistics, on-ground, marine, air, etc.) and to address where scalable solutions are being executed, are feasible, and to identify and share best-practices.

    c. Situational Awareness: Data Repository on Technology Used (AVs, Smart City and Smart Grid)

    The need is for a verifiable, publicly accessible data source that provides multiple stakeholders (e.g. academics, researchers, investors, inventors and state-local-federal partners) clarity about who is doing what where, in order to catalyze facts-based decision-making in this important and growing field.

    d. Systematic Assessment of AV Technology Gaps

    The need, as discussed above, is for a systematic, independently derived view on the technology gaps in autonomous and connected vehicle applications. A technology roadmap is recommended based on the high-score for this gap.

    e. Need for Opto-Electronic Engineers (including for LiDAR, Optics, Sensor Development Engineering)

    The probability that AV technologies, like LiDAR, will be available at significantly lower costs for widespread application depends significantly (indeed, this is a first and foremost driver – based on numerous sources) on the availability of a skilled workforce to ramp up production, reduce costs and maintain quality of end products.

  6. The availability of skilled AV-domain manufacturing engineers is viewed as a key constraint to growth in capacity (esp. if the growth is rapid) of autonomous vehicle technologies (including LiDAR) in the US.

    Disruptive Technology Recommendations

    The extensive data collection and analysis in FY17 suggests that there are disruptive technology R&D opportunities to consider in the fields of LiDAR-related sensors, connected vehicles, and V2X.  The data also suggests that there may be unique opportunities for US-based job creation by focusing on such leap-ahead innovations.

    “Disruptive” is defined as technologies which present opportunities to address significant cost- or cost and performance gap closing needs by one or more orders of magnitude, in which current technology is too costly to scale to address the radical performance increases and cost reductions that are needed. 

    Each of the following recommendations regarding disruptive technology reflects Synthesis’ independent assessment of both primary and secondary source research completed under this work-plan.

  7. New I/O control architectures can address multiple on-vehicle intelligence processing functions, at human-transport quality, in fraction of time and fraction of cost.  For example, fusion of all domain control units (DCUs) in one centralized vehicle computer OR new validated, tested architectures that permits “full sense-and-compute” at the edges. New I/O control architectures would present:

    a. A solution that removes the requirement to send data off of vehicle, including for map location, navigation or processing.
    b. A solution that is lighter, faster, more secure data generation, collection, mining and processing on vehicle.
    c. solution that can scale in terms of information processing to match the “every car a map-maker and every car a map-user” paradigm.

  8. Power by Ethernet:” This covers the need to wirelessly charge AVs in many contexts, while mobile or stationary.  An alternative to costly production, install, maintain and package of power through (heavy) motors, batteries and wiring harnesses.

  9. Accelerated engineering of “hard-coded hardware accelerators.” This includes – for example – hard-coded devices that can enable fleet-wide AV software upgrades and that enable such software upgrades to be:
    a. Fail-safe
    b. Valid
    c. Cyber secure

Final Conclusions

The combination of autonomous systems and Internet of Things (IoT) demands new, in-depth understanding of future engineering R&D requirements at every level of the systems engineering process.  Information is (becoming) the new energy.

New partnerships among OEMs, Tier 1-3s, software developers, cyber-security experts, research universities and federal R&D labs are needed to catalyze R&D work in hardware, software and systems-engineering fields.  Such new partnerships are needed to guide the software-based and interdisciplinary work that needs to be done to advance autonomous and connected vehicles.  Synthesis has explored the industry data in this report on a few topics, and has identified several fast-growing fields that will frame the nature of this new R&D reality.

In brief, future R&D will enable systems and components in vehicles to communicate and compute with networks from the component up through the transportation grid, through to a global-level grid.  This is why emerging R&D gaps are numerous, and not only hardware-focused.  From a hardware perspective, autonomous and connected vehicles continuously seek smaller, more functional, more power dense and lower cost designs of every component and sensor.  From an information perspective, rigorous processes for collecting, maintaining and analyzing information about the “information gains” of future R&D is needed.  From a US job and manufacturing growth perspective, this report finds that more skill in engineering-to-manufacturing capabilities is needed.  This simply means more learning-by-doing. 

The fast-emerging, estimated multi-trillion dollar market for autonomous systems is directly connected to (as both a driver and beneficiary of) the Internet of Things.[1]  Semiconductor manufacturers play a key role in this opportunity.

Autonomous and Connected Vehicles Report (2016-2018)


Gap Analysis

Final Recommendations and Conclusions