GM, GE look to develop rare earth materials supply chain

Michelle Chapman
Associated Press

General Motors and General Electric are looking at developing a supply chain of rare earth materials that help make electric vehicles and renewable energy equipment.

The companies said Wednesday that the memorandum of understanding between the automaker and GE Renewable Energy will evaluate options to improve supplies of heavy and light rare earth materials as well as magnets, copper and electrical steel.

They initially plan to concentrate on making a North America and Europe-based supply chain of magnet manufacturing, as metal alloys and finished magnets made from rare earth materials are critical components used in creating electric motors for automotive and renewable power generation.

GM and GE Renewable Energy will also look to create new supply chains for materials like copper and eSteel — a new alloy that incorporates recycled materials — that are used in automotive traction motors and renewable power generation.

The U.S. is trying to increase its production of rare earth materials, so as not to be so reliant on China. In 2018, China produced some 120,000 metric tons of rare earths, while the U.S. produced 15,000 metric tons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

On Tuesday, GM announced that it's building a huge new electric vehicle battery lab at its Warren Tech Center where scientists will work on chemistry to cut costs 60% over current vehicles and allow people to travel 500 to 600 miles per charge. The Detroit automaker plans to spend $35 billion on electric and autonomous vehicles from 2020 to 2025. It anticipates rolling out 30 new electric vehicles worldwide by 2025 and has a goal of selling only electric passenger vehicles by 2035.