The Toyota Prius may be one of the most popular hybrid cars on the planet, but Toyota believes they can make it even greener. As such, they are researching and developing a new electric motor that is cheaper and requires less rare earth metals to make. In a statement, Toyota said that the technology would also reduce the company’s dependency on China, which currently produces 97 percent of the rare earth metals needed for many high-tech products.

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Due to importance of heavy metals in hybrid engine production, Toyota was suitably rattled last year when China blocked exports of heavy metals after a “diplomatic dispute” with Japan. As a result, prices have soared and China has reduced its output — however Toyota has risen to the challenge.

“Toyota is always looking for a reduction in resources and in terms of costs,” said spokesman Paul Nolasco, however he did not release any specific details or dates for the new motor. Toyota is also working on launching a completely new electric vehicle in the U.S., Japan and Europe in 2012, as well as an electric sport-utility vehicle developed alongside U.S. luxury electric car maker Tesla.

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Via Physorg

Lead image © Peter Long