Honda Freed

Honda Motor has developed the world’s first electric motor for hybrid cars that doesn’t use heavy rare earth metals — a major step forward in development of motors that are free from the political whims of the Chinese government.

Rare earth metals are important for the production of many high-tech devices, including smartphones and the magnets in motors. About 80 percent of the global supply of these metals comes from China, and in the past, the country has restricted access to some of them for political reasons.

Honda worked with Daido Steel on perfecting the magnet and designed a new motor for use in hybrid vehicles. Daido Steel will begin mass production of the motor in August, and Honda plans to use it in the “Freed,” a new minivan the company will launch in Japan later this year.