China dominates supply of the elusive metals, which are vital to modern technology, but finding new sources is becoming a global priority
There are an estimated 1.4bn cars on the world’s roads today. Around 78m new cars are sold every year. To head off the worst effects of climate change, every single one will need to go electric eventually.
Whether it rolls off a production line in Fremont, California, or comes together in a vast megafactory in Qinghai, China, a colossal amount of human effort must go into building the components and obtaining their base minerals. In each car, for instance, there is roughly a kilogram of magnet providing the motion needed to fire engines and electrify windows. Roughly 30% of this material is made up of rare earth material known as neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr).