Close-up of several electric car motors on an assembly line
Polestar is partnering with Cyclic Materials, a Kingston, Ont.-based startup, to explore ways to recycle magnets and reuse them in the Swedish OEM’s electric vehicles.

Once its production is scaled up, Cyclic Materials will supply the Swedish EV maker with recycled rare earth magnets to be used in future Polestar vehicles by 2025

Polestar, a Sweden-based EV manufacturer, is partnering with Cyclic Materials, a Kingston, Ont.-based magnet recycling startup, to develop a circular supply chain solution for rare earth magnets, in an effort to reduce the OEM’s overall environmental impact.

The companies signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this month after Polestar indicated it wants to recycle rare earth metals from end-of-life vehicle motors to use in new vehicles, instead of mining for virgin rare earth minerals.

“Magnet [recycling] seems to be something we’ve overlooked or the industry has overlooked,” says Sander Jahilo, circularity lead at Polestar in an interview with Electric Autonomy. “We think this is something that we can have a direct impact on because a lot of rare earth elements-based magnets are being put in the market, but it’s all going to waste. This seems almost outrageous and [something] we need to solve.”

As part of the MOU, Polestar plans to test the recycled rare earth magnets supplied by Cyclic Material in real-world applications, with the overall goal to increase the closed-loop recyclability of its cars and lower their raw material footprint.

“We’ll see what the results of that are but we are quite hopeful right now that we can incorporate those magnets into our future cars from 2025 onwards when Cyclic Materials scales up,” says Jahilo.

A quiet Canadian company

Cyclic Materials has been developing ways to recycle rare earth elements (REEs) since 2021.

REEs are commonly used materials in many types of products, including EVs where they appear in the permanent magnets in EV motors. But, due to unstable geopolitical relations, the mining and refinement of REEs is seen now as a critical component of building out a domestic EV supply chain in Canada.

“[More than] 93 per cent of those magnets are produced and supplied by only one country in Asia. That creates supply chain risk,” says Ahmad Ghahreman, CEO of Cyclic Materials, in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“By going through our process, the magnet goes back to raw materials and you are able to produce the highest quality and most recent technology magnets out of it.”

Recycling REEs from spent vehicle motors is a relatively new concept. At Cyclic it happens in two phases:  a process to separate magnets, and then a hydrometallurgical process to produce raw materials of magnet production.

Recycling magnets through this process produces less carbon dioxide, and less waste and consumes just two per cent of the water mining companies use to mine the minerals, says Ghahreman.

Scaling the technology

In August, Cyclic Material delivered its first samples of high-purity recycled rare earth oxides to its downstream service providers after concluding its proof-of-concept bench-scale test work at Kingston Process Metallurgy Inc. The company then completed the initial production run at its newly constructed magnet recycling pilot plant in Kingston in November. At the plant, it was successful at generating engineering data for its scaling-up ambitions and producing high-quality magnet rare earth oxides.

Ultimately, Cyclic plans to make its recycled REEs available to downstream companies in North America and Europe “with far less harm to our environment,” says Ghahreman, hinting that Polestar is the first in a series of upcoming partnerships.

“We actually have secured a couple of more partnerships … from other very well-known companies [like] Polestar, that you will see in the future,” says Ghahreman.

In the new year, the company plans to build its first commercial plant in Kingston and continue raising money to develop the technology at scale further. By 2026, Cyclic Materials wants to produce 600 tonnes of recycled rare earth oxides, increasing to 3,000 tonnes annually by 2030.