Honda Motor Co said it had co-developed the world's first electric motor for hybrid cars that uses no heavy rare earth metals, a breakthrough that would trim costs and reduce its dependence on the expensive materials controlled mainly by China.
Japan's third-largest automaker said on Tuesday the technology, developed with Daido Steel Co, will be used in the next Freed minivan to be unveiled this autumn.
Hybrid vehicles, which combine a gasoline engine and electric motor for better mileage, have gone mainstream in many developed countries but procuring a steady supply of rare earth elements such as dysprosium and terbium has been a challenge. Automakers have been trying to diversify their source of rare earth materials to ease their dependence on China.
The redesigned motor still uses a light rare earth element, neodymium.