NdFeB Permanent Magnets: Projected Demand Comparisons Across End Use Sectors

J.W. Heim II, R.L. Vander Wal
Penn State University,
United States

Keywords: rare earth, permanent magnet, critical element, electric vehicles, NdFeB, economics


Across consumer, defense, manufacturing and power generation sectors, NdFeB rare earth permanent magnets are critical given their superior coercivity. This presentation relates rare earth NdFeB permanent magnet consumption to specific rare earth quantities required across major demand sectors. Electric vehicles (EVs) equipped with permanent magnet motors and electric bicycles comprise the transportation contribution, totaling ~ 11% of magnet demand. For electric vehicles, permanent magnet motors have gained nearly 100% market share among vehicle manufacturers worldwide as the leading technology. For wind, differentiation is made between gear-box versus direct drive and on-shore versus off-shore siting, the latter using preferentially using NdFeB magnets; a 3 MW wind turbine requires ~ 600 kg of NdFeB magnets. Industrial, professional service and personal robots, most using permanent magnets are also included in the projected need for Nd/Pr, consuming more than 1/3 of global supply, estimated at roughly 66,000 tons. Consumer electronics, including computers encompasses a broad category of computer, CD and DVD hard drives in addition to the ubiquitous cell phones. Though the nominal NdFeB magnet content in consumer electronics, e.g., computer hard drives, cell phones, speakers, etc. is small, nevertheless this sector has a 30 % market share of NdFeB demand. Across these sectors, Nd and Dy future demand through 2050 is calculated using a compounded annual growth rate coupled with magnet weight and rare earth content. Uncertainties in the estimates are considered such as true global production of Nd, fragmented markets in each sector, varied magnet compositions and range of market size. With total rare earth oxide (TREO) production in 2020 estimated at 240,000 tons, the Nd/Pr oxide demand is consistent with an overall ore fraction of ~ 27%. For the sectors evaluated in the analysis, wind turbines (on- and off-shore), electric vehicles, electric bicycles (EBs) and scooters, global cell phone and consumer electronics, industrial and service robots, industrial motors, a lower limit for the cumulative Dy demand across all these sectors is 4,300 tons, within 10% of the USGS global production estimate for Dy oxide in 2020. Still, this represents a Dy production 1.8x higher than the historical average for Dy oxide content in the annual rare earth oxide produced globally. While rare earths used for magnets (neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium) constitute only 25% of the total rare earths production volume, they represent 80% to 90% of the total rare earths market value. The economic importance of the rare earths value chain becomes obvious by looking at the emerging electric vehicle market: over the last decade, the evolution of technology has resulted in 95% of EVs using permanent magnet motors by 2019, particularly because they provide the highest energy efficiency which translates into drive range. By 2030, an estimated 40,000 and 70,000 tons of NdFeB magnets on a global level will be required for EVs, depending on the anticipated growth scenario. In proportion, a global EV market worth of about $600-900 billion could depend on securing access to about $2-3 billion NdFeB magnets.