Toyota Developing Alternative Electric Motor

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TOKYO (AP) - Toyota Motor Corp., maker of the popular Prius hybrid car, is developing a new type of electric motor to cut its dependence on rare earth metals and lower costs, a company spokesman said Monday.The new technology will help free the world's No. 1 automaker from relying on China, which produces 97 percent of the global output of rare earths needed for many high-tech products, including the current generation of hybrid gasoline-electric motors.Beijing sent shock waves through Japan's high-tech sector late last year when it blocked exports of the exotic metals after a diplomatic spat, and prices have soared as China gradually tightens its output."Toyota is always looking for a reduction in resources and in terms of costs," said spokesman Paul Nolasco.The company has not released any specific uses or timeline for the new motor, he said.Toyota has bet big on gasoline-electric hybrid technology, and an executive said last year it will begin selling a completely electric vehicle in 2012 in the U.S., Japan and Europe. The company is also working on an electric sport-utility vehicle with U.S. luxury electric car maker Tesla.Analysts said production of such vehicles was still small enough that there was little short-term risk from a shortage of rare earths, but this could change quickly. …