GM and Stellantis invest in Niron Magnetics to develop rare-earth-free EV components

GM Ventures and Stellantis Ventures have joined a growing list of investors that have recently raised $33 million in additional funding for Niron Magnetics – a company developing proprietary Clean Earth Magnets based on Iron Nitride that function without rare earths or other critical materials used in today’s EVs.

Niron Magnetics is a technology company spun out from a program at the University of Minnesota that looks to eliminate environmentally destructive rare earth mining by replacing those precious materials with cleaner alternatives.

The company’s intellectual property currently consists of 30 granted patents and another 20 pending, but its current star (especially in the world of EVs) is Niron’s proprietary Clean Earth Magnet technology, which utilizes Iron Nitride to create magnets that retain high magnetization, but are free of rare earths materials.

Last month, the technology was named as one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2023 – an admirable achievement following a decade of development. With pilot production facilities already in place in Minnesota, Niron believes its rare-earth-free technology can enable a revolution in the design of future EV motors, drivetrains, and other adjacent technologies.

Venture arms of two major OEMs – GM and Stellantis – have taken note of Niron Magnetics’ progress and have opened their checkbooks to support the company in reaching scale, hopefully limiting supply chains while helping promote more sustainable EV technology.

rare earth EV
Iron Nitride / Credit: Niron Magnetics

Niron to expand EV magnet production without rare earths

According to a release from the Clean Earth Magnet manufacturer this morning, it has garnered an additional $33 million in funding. In addition to initial funding from GM and Stellantis, previous investors Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) and the University of Minnesota (UMN) also participated in the round.

On a call with GM and Niron yesterday, there was mention of some exclusivity to the American automaker following its fresh investment (although it would not say how much it invested). Since no company is sharing financial details, we cannot say if Niron will prioritize shipping its rare-earth-free EV magnets to either OEM, but both are likely high on that list. A third on that list is the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, which previously invested in Niron Magnetics, securing three major automotive OEMs in the magnet developer’s current rolodex.

GM actually invented permanent magnets using rare earth materials decades ago – technology that has since been adapted into the drivetrains of most EVs today. By investing in Niron however, GM looks to turn the page on that technology and help expedite the implementation of cleaner, and more sustainable options. Per GM Ventures president Anirvan Coomer:

Nearly 40 years ago, GM’s R&D 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. Niron’s Clean Earth Magnet could help GM make more affordable EVs for its customers out of more abundant materials.

With fresh funding in place, Niron Magnetics feels empowered to increase pilot production to support bolstered customer prototyping program,s followed by small scale product runs. This technology is still at least a few years away from being seen implemented on GM, Stellantis, or Volvo EVs on roads, but the rare-earth-free technology appears closer than ever with the support of two more major OEMs.

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