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Honda announced today that it will start a mass-production recycling program to extract rare earth metals from used car parts.
Partnering with Japan Metals & Chemicals Co., the automaker will begin extracting the materials, which are 95 percent controlled by China. The majority of material harvesting will be from nickel-metal hydride batteries collected from used hybrid vehicles sourced from Honda’s massive dealer network.
Currently, China’s near-monopoly over the material is causing drastic price inflation, but finding a way to circumvent that cost is obviously advantageous.
The project will extract 80 percent of the nickel-metal hydride from used hybrid batteries and will eventually use the process for other components as well.
The upcoming Toyota Prius V, a pseudo-minivan version of Toyota’s wildly popular Prius hybrid, may be delayed for up to a year because of battery shortages resulting from the March 11th earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Toyota initially planned to launch the vehicle in April, but the resulting supply chain issues have thrown their plans into turmoil. Toyota claimed that the battery shortage was an issue even before the earthquake, but the resulting disruption means that production levels will not reach normal levels for a number of months.
The new battery is a lithium-ion model, which is more compact, and available on the seven-seater Prius V, which will not be coming to North America. Toyota is said to be capable of producing 1,000 cars equipped with this battery, compared to 2,000 per month with the standard nickel-metal hydride unit. But Toyota is hoping to sell 2,000 examples of the Prius V in North America each month, a figure that will have to be adjusted in light of the current situation.
[Source: The Detroit News]