Niron Magnetics is partnering with Marquette University and General Motors to develop electric vehicle drivetrains using a US$5m grant from the Department of Energy.

Demand for electric and hybrid vehicles continues to grow and new forecasts predict they will account for an estimated 30% of all vehicle sales by 2025. However, the drivetrains traditionally utilised in EV and HV designs are powered by rare-earth materials, which are predicted to experience a shortage by 2030.

Ayman El-Refaie, Werner Endowed Chair in Secure/Sustainable Energy and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Marquette University will serve as the lead on the three-year DOE Vehicle Technologies Office project that seeks to meet and even exceed the DOE targets around metrics such as max torque, power, speed current and bus voltage as demand for electric vehicles continues to grow, without the use of rare earths.

“We are very excited about teaming with Niron Magnetics on this project and see their Iron Nitride permanent magnets as a key enabling technology to achieve our project objectives,” said El-Refaie. “Beyond this project, Niron’s technology will help achieve higher performance in electrical machines over a broad range of applications.”

The proposed design incorporates high performance Iron Nitride (FeN) magnets, which the team at Niron will be developing. Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet technology does not use any rare earth elements and offers advantages compared to traditional magnets, including higher magnetic field strength, enhanced temperature stability and lower cost input materials and manufacturing.

Niron notes its magnets have a higher magnetic flux density than conventional Ferrite and NdFeB-based magnets, enabling size and weight reduction in motors without compromising power or torque.

“This collaboration, along with the other vehicle technology innovation projects funded by the DOE will help shape the future of the transportation sector and increase access to more sustainable options for consumers,” said Niron CTO, Frank Johnson.

“Professor El-Refaie and his team understand the potential our technology has to unlock new possibilities in power generation without the use of rare earths, ensuring electric motors of the future are not only more cost effective, but sustainable.”

The project is funded by the Vehicle Technologies Office of the Department of Energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are also partnering on the project.