LOS ANGELES -- Toyota Motor Corp., the world's largest seller of hybrid cars and light trucks, is developing an alternative motor for future hybrid and electric cars that doesn't need rare-earth minerals.
The motor could help cut Toyota's dependence on rare-earth materials from China, which controls more than 90 percent of the global market for the metals. Rare-earth minerals are generally soft, malleable metallic chemical elements that are used in hybrid vehicles.
Toyota engineers in Japan and the United States are working on a so-called inductive motor that's lighter and more efficient than the magnet-type motor now used in the Prius, said John Hanson, a company spokesman. Research is at an "advanced stage," he said, without saying when vehicles with the motors may be sold.
China's government cut export quotas of rare-earth minerals for the first half of 2011 by 35 percent last month. That follows a 72 percent reduction in the second half of 2010, causing the price of some of the metals to more than double.