European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, recalled in her recent 2022 State of the European Union: “without secure and sustainable access to the necessary raw materials, our ambition to become the first climate neutral continent is at risk”. Ursula von der Leyen explicitly mentioned: “Lithium and rare earths will soon be more important than oil and gas. Our demand for rare earths alone will increase fivefold by 2030. […] We must avoid becoming dependent again, as we did with oil and gas”.
Alarming dependency on the supply of rare earths
The fragility of the present situation becomes clear when considering the alarming dependency on the supply of these materials: as much as 98% of the rare earths used in Europe are imported from China. Rare earths are essential in the fabrication of the permanent magnets that are literally driving our green technologies. It takes about 1 kg of rare earths to produce the magnets of an electric car; up to 2 tons for the magnets of a single wind turbine. Achieving a green future in Europe requires the search for sustainable alternatives.
Rare-earth-free permanent magnets “Made in Europe”
EU H2020 project PASSENGER responds to the EU’s dependency on critical raw materials by focusing on developing rare earth-free permanent magnets “Made in Europe”. PASSENGER covers the whole magnets production value chain, from studying fundamental properties to the production of high-technology end products, while aiming at making the transition from a linear to a circular model involving citizens, international platforms and relevant stakeholders. A consortium combining the joint effort of 20 centers, with the active involvement of 13 industrial partners, is working towards realising 8 pilot plants in Europe by 2025. These plants will address the fabrication of permanent magnet materials with constituents widely available and recyclable and their integration in electromobility and water pump applications. PASSENGER is working to guarantee wise diversification in the permanent magnet sector to contribute to achieving the European Green Deal objectives.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101003914, which contributes €8.9 M from the €11.3 M total budget. PASSENGER addresses to the topic CE-SC5-10-2020 on raw materials innovation under subtopic d) Pilots on substitution of critical and scarce raw materials (2020).