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For the third-generation hybrid system powering the Fusion Hybrid and C-MAX Hybrid, Ford expects to be using about 500,000 pounds a year less of expensive and uncommon rare earth metals. Reduction of rare earth metals in the lithium-ion batteries and the hybrid system's electric machines lowers vehicle costs as Ford ramps up its production of hybrids and electric vehicles over the next years, allowing the automaker to offer more affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle choices to customers. Of course, since the reduction is partly due to the shift from nickel-metal hydride batteries to more efficient li-ion packs, this is in some ways an apples-to-oranges comparision.

The rare earth metals neodymium, cerium, lanthanum and praseodymium were used in previous editions of Ford hybrids with their NiMH batteries. None of those four are used in Ford's new lithium-ion batteries. Ford is also reducing by 50 percent the amount of the most expensive rare earth metals that it acquires, dysprosium, by implementing a new diffusion process used in the magnetic manufacturing process of the magnets employed in the hybrid system's electric machines.

Ford says the reduction of rare earth metals is important for both financial and physical reasons. The cost for the lithium-ion batteries for Ford's third-generation hybrid systems is reduced 30 percent from the previously used NiMH batteries. They weigh less (by about 50 percent) and don't need as much storage space since they are 25 to 30 percent smaller. This means better fuel efficiency – a projected 47 mpg for Fusion Hybrid and an EPA-certified 47 mpg for C-MAX Hybrid.

In its press release, Ford neglected to mention yet another reason for reducing rare earth metals: geopolitics. About 95 percent of rare earth metals come from China. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology can ban or severely limit the amount that will leave the country, a power that can be quite stressful for automakers needing access to the metals for their hybrids and electric vehicles.
Show full PR text
Ford's New Li-Ion Batteries Reduce Use of Rare Earth Metals, Enable Superior Fuel Economy for Fusion, C-MAX Hybrids
  • New projected 47-mpg Ford Fusion Hybrid and EPA-certified 47-mpg C-MAX Hybrid feature lighter, more efficient, more powerful lithium-ion batteries that are expected to reduce Ford's use of expensive, rare earth metals by up to 500,000 pounds annually
  • Dysprosium, the most expensive rare earth metal used in Ford vehicles, is reduced by approximately 50 percent in new Fusion and C-MAX hybrids' electric machines
  • These rare earth metal reductions helped Ford cut the cost of its third-generation hybrid technology by 30 percent, adding to the overall value of the new C-MAX Hybrid – America's most affordable hybrid utility vehicle starting at $25,995 – and Fusion Hybrid
DEARBORN, Mich., Sept. 13, 2012 – Ford's third-generation hybrid system, which replaces nickel-metal-hydride batteries with new lighter, more efficient lithium-ion batteries, could reduce the company's use of expensive, less-abundant rare earth metals by up to 500,000 pounds a year.

This reduction of rare earth metals is important for both financial and physical reasons. First, the cost is reduced by 30 percent when compared to previous-generation hybrid batteries. Also, lithium-ion batteries are 50 percent lighter and 25 to 30 percent smaller. The result: Better fuel efficiency in Ford's new electric vehicle offerings, including a projected 47 mpg for Fusion Hybrid and an EPA-certified 47 mpg for C-MAX Hybrid.

"We're continually looking to find ways to provide greater fuel efficiency as well as cost savings to customers of our hybrid vehicles, and the reduction of rare earth metals is a key part of this strategy," said Chuck Gray, chief engineer, Global Core Engineering, Hybrid and Electric Vehicles."The third-generation hybrid technology we are now using builds on our 20 years of electric vehicle innovations."

Among the rare earth metals used in nickel-metal-hydride batteries are neodymium, cerium, lanthanum and praseodymium, none of which are used in the new lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, Ford has reduced its use of dysprosium by approximately 50 percent in magnets employed in the hybrid system's electric machines. Dysprosium is the most expensive rare earth metal used in Ford vehicles. This reduction is the result of a new diffusion process that is used in the magnet manufacturing process.

The overall reduction of rare earth metals in the lithium-ion batteries and electric machines lowers vehicle costs, which is key as Ford triples production of its electric vehicles by 2013, ultimately translating to more affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle choices for customers.

Rare earth metals are a set of 17 atomic elements in the periodic table. While some are indeed rare, others are plentiful within specific regions in the earth's crust. These metals are used in many consumer products including mobile phones, LED televisions, computer screens and hybrid vehicle batteries.

Maximum power of choice
The 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid is projected to deliver best-in-class 47 mpg on the highway, making it America's most fuel-efficient sedan. The new Fusion will also give customers the power to choose across three powertrain options – gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid.

Ford's all-new C-MAX Hybrid, in showrooms this fall, is EPA-certified at 47 mpg on the highway, 47 mpg in the city and 47 mpg combined, making it America's most fuel-efficient hybrid utility vehicle. C-MAX Energi, launching later this fall, is projected to deliver 95 MPGe.

Press releases, videos, photos and other material related to Ford's electrified vehicles can be found here.

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About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 168,000 employees and about 65 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit http://corporate.ford.com.

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