The electric car race is gaining momentum, but the surge in demand has also increased demand for precious rare metals. Because of the limited availability of these materials, GM recently showed how the GMC Hummer EV 2022 not only reduces the amount of materials needed for its electric motors, but how it uses the metals it has in a sustainable way.
The GMC Hummer EV is already becoming one of the most popular EV entries on the market today. While the model hasn’t officially arrived at dealerships yet, it has generated a lot of interest and is the proverbial precursor to the wave of Ultium-powered electric car models that GM will be offering to consumers over the next few years. But GM has shown that it will also be a beacon of sustainability because of the way it manages the amount of rare metals it uses in electric motors.
Hummer EV adds solution to broader electric car problem
The Hummer EV may love to flaunt its size while cruising around town, but this beast is a different animal compared to its old ICE-powered ancestors, which were big rugged SUVs that paved trails but consumed gallons of gasoline. This is especially true when you look at its all-electric drivetrain with the Edition 1 model producing more than 1,000 hp and delivered through a standard all-wheel drive system.
But the Hummer also sheds light on what may be a bigger long-term problem — rare earth metals. For now, electric cars are still a niche market, but if recent offerings from Ford, GM and others dramatically increase demand, it could potentially hamper the supply of rare earths. As the name implies, these metals are hard to find and limited in quantity. For example, neodyne is used in permanent magnets and requires special purification methods to extract it from ore.
Although GM’s electric motors are not completely asynchronous motors (which eliminates the need for the material), the company didn’t want to take any chances and revealed in an interview with Design News that it designed all motors (asynchronous and permanent magnets) to use as few metals as possible. This allows GM to simplify production and also allows all motors to be part of a scalable family that can be easily replaced to meet a wide range of needs. The minimal amount of metals in the engines also helps increase inventory, but this benefit can only truly be realized once electric car manufacturers embrace this strategy again.
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“It’s a question of how you look at a multi-dimensional problem and solve it in different ways,” Greve DN explained . GM still uses rare-earth elements, but seeks to minimize them. “If you look at neodymium and additives like lithiates, dysprosium, terbium, we use the minimum amount exactly where we need it. We put it where we need it for maximum effect.”
Greve also said in a separate brief statement that GM takes the origin of the metals it uses very seriously and does its best to avoid conflicts as well as those where human rights compliance is sketchy.
“We have safe, sustainable, ethically sourced, audited materials,
Innovations that will extend to other Ultium models
As mentioned, the Hummer will be a preview of GM’s electric vehicle efforts, and in addition to its technology, look out for this minimized use of metal to also appear in other models, including the Cadillac Lyriq CUV as well as the recently announced Chevrolet Silverado EV. The Silverado in particular will be a major player for Chevrolet, and the increased production demands of this particular model will certainly allow GM’s materials strategy to truly prove itself.