Niron Magnetics has raised $33 million in funding from major automotive manufacturers, including GM Ventures and Stellantis Ventures, to produce magnets that can be used in electric vehicles and other clean technologies and don’t require rare earth materials.
The magnets could be an important development for the EV industry, with GM eyeing Niron as the maker of the world’s first permanent magnet with automotive-grade power entirely free from critical materials, including rare or heavy rare earth minerals, the company said. Niron’s magnets use iron nitride which are much more common natural materials.
Minnesota-based Niron produces the permanent magnets, which are essential components in all automobiles for a number of purposes, including fuel pumps, air circulation, EV drivetrains, and more. The technology is also used in products and materials such as consumer electronics and audio equipment, industrial motors, pumps, compressors, and wind turbines.
GM Ventures noted its investment in the company is part of its commitment to an all-electric transition and securing its electric vehicle supply chain. In addition to the financing from the automakers, previous local investors, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the University of Minnesota, as well as other investors, also participated in the funding round.
Niron plans to use the funds to expand its current pilot production facilities, as well as scale manufacturing capacity for exclusive customer programs and initial sales of its Clean Earth Magnet.
Plus, the funding will advance the company’s commercialization of its iron nitride-based Clean Earth Magnets. These magnets are environmentally sustainable, internationally manufacturable, and made from stable supply inputs, Niron said. The product is an alternative to rare-earth materials magnets and the company also stated the Clean Earth Magnets offer improved temperature stability compared to those on the market currently.
“Nearly 40 years ago, GM’s (research and development) team discovered and commercialized the world’s first high-powered, rare-earth permanent magnet material. GM Ventures’ investment in Niron’s Magnetics brings our rich history in specialized magnet innovation full circle,” Anirvan Coomer, president of GM Ventures, said in a statement. “Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet could help GM make more affordable EVs for its customers out of more abundant materials.”
GM said that it has formed a strategic partnership with Niro to co-develop Clean Earth Magnet motor technology that can be used in future GM EVs.
The funding comes as the United States is investing in its EV infrastructure, while major carmakers and other businesses are investing in battery manufacturing. Toyota recently announced its $8 billion investment to expand battery production at its North Carolina Battery Plant.