Powertrain engineers at Continental decided several years ago to stick with less efficient, less expensive conventional motors rather than make more advanced permanent-magnet motors. That choice is looking better and better now that China, which supplies 95% of the rare earth used in permanent magnets, closed three of its rare-earth mines. Chinese officials say it is due to environmental concerns. However, China’s decision follows one by the World Trade Organization that ruled against that country‘s policy of restricting exports of rare earth materials. Closing the mines will let China limit exports of the materials without falling afoul of the WTO.
So until now, the only car company that uses Continental motors has been Renault, which puts them in its electric Kangoo ZE van. But Continental now has 12 projects with OEMs to develop their own versions of the older electric motor. Fortunately, the motor has a modular design and can be lengthened or shortened to add or subtract horsepower.