Before joining AEM as Chairman in March 2021, Peter Fleet had already enjoyed a highly successful 30-year career at Ford Motor Company. Having most recently held the role of Group Vice President and President of Asia Pacific, Peter has an encyclopaedic knowledge and understanding of the global automotive sector.

That’s why on 10 November, Peter will talk at our COP26 event, Novel Electrification through Advanced Sustainable Technologies (N.EAST), about the changing passenger car market, and what the industry needs to do to make the sector truly sustainable.

By 2030, Deloitte estimates that more than 90% of global passenger car and light commercial vehicle production will consist of electric vehicles (EVs). While this is clearly a step in the right direction when it comes to decarbonising road transport, it does not solve the sustainability issues around passenger cars in its entirety.

Much has been said about sustainability concerns around EV batteries, but similar issues must also be raised about EV motors as well.

Ever since the first hybrid cars came to market, electrified vehicles have traditionally been driven by permanent magnet (PM) motors. As the EV market gathered pace, PM motors became the de facto solution, and the supply chain built itself around this technology.

But PM motors have a number of characteristics that threaten to undo much of the good work that the automotive sector is doing around decarbonisation.

Firstly, the rare earth materials used in the magnets of PM motors are highly damaging when mined and processes. Every tonne of rare earth material taken from the ground produces up to 1.4 tonnes of radioactive waste, 200m3 of acid-containing sewage water, 60,000m3 waste gas containing hydrochloric acid and 27.6 tonnes of CO2.

The pricing of these materials is also highly volatile, making it difficult for manufacturers to accurately predict the cost of scaling PM motor technology to the many millions needed by 2030.

Meanwhile, PM motors are costly and inefficient to recycle owing to the use of magnets and copper.

So, the question remains, how do we make EVs truly sustainable, in time for mass global adoption in the passenger car market?

For ideas from some of the automotive and engineering sectors’ brightest minds, be sure to join us for N.EAST at 15:00 on 10 November at COP26 in Glasgow or virtually via COP26’s YouTube live channel.