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Permanent and rare earth magnets used in Toyota engines

September 03, 2013Permanent and rare earth magnets used in Toyota engines

Performance and fuel efficiency. That's what car manufacturing giant Toyota – and it's luxury brand Lexus – is aiming for.

Toyota is currently in various stages of development with three different models of fuel efficient, eco-friendly cars that can still raise the pulse of thrill-seeking drivers.

The car manufacturer already has hybrids and plug-in cars on the road, and the company is experimenting with rare earth magnets for use with induction motors on its hybrid and plug-in vehicle lineup. All electric motors that are currently manufactured for consumer use employ some form of magnet for power.

Toyota is also hard at work on a fuel-cell vehicle that could come out sometime in 2014. The American carmaker Tesla, has led the way thus far for selling fuel-cell vehicles.

Toyota's fuel-cell car will have four doors and and be revealed at the Tokyo Auto Show sometime this year, according to Slash Gear.

"Much more can be done with hybrids," Tom Stricker, vice president of technology and regulator affairs at Toyota, said at the Toyota Hybrid World Tour 2013 in Michigan on Aug. 28, "but when it comes to other vehicles, like ZEVs, we're particularly bullish on fuel-cells, but the future of sales of these sort of vehicles remains uncertain for us."

Other than Tesla, many major manufacturers are having difficulties meeting sales targets for plug-in models. In response, Toyota recently slashed the cost of leasing a RAV4 EV. Stricker said its a similar issue to when the first generation of the RAV4 EV came out in the 1990s.

"Back in the 90s we leased the RAV4 EV," Stricker said. "It's interesting, what we learned is still the same today with EVs. Range, cost, utility. The RAV4 is a relatively large vehicle in terms of EV space, it has lots of utility. But what reignited the EV discussion was the hope for li-ion battery technology. That technology actually cost more, at least currently. I'm not sure we've actually solved the issues that led to the challenging issues the first time, the late-90s time we did this."

Stricker noted that new technology such as the premium plug-in sedan that Tesla has offered will generally find an audience of consumers who want to stay ahead of the technology curve.

"There's always going to be that group of folks, the early-adopters, who can afford it, who'll gravitate to this market," Stricker said. "But battery cost reductions are one of the key things that everybody in the industry needs to work towards. To get more range, and to make the vehicles more affordable for what you get out of them."

Lexus hybrid using magnets in engine
The 2013 Lexus ​ES 300h is one such car that provides fuel efficiency and luxury. The 2.5-liter dual-cam four-cylinder engine utilizes a high-output permanent magnet electric drive motor that is similar to the Prius, though the​ ES300h will show considerably better performance when driven on track.

Like Toyota's flagship hybrid, the ​ES 300h comes with two motor generators, with one used for operating the vehicle and the other acting as a starter to charge the battery and turn the gas engine over.

"It's a conventional transmission, tuned for performance," Bill Kwong, a public relations specialist for Lexus, told the Oakland Press. "The hybrid gets more horsepower than the gas counterpart on some of them. Lexus hybrids also have a more reinforced chassis, fully independent suspension; better insulation, a complete package with handling. We played with suspension geometry to give you ride comfort but still good handling."

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