is needed, it can start with a basic premise, such as, "Apple sold 50 million iphones and 30 million ipads in 2011 and each required an x average number of ounces of x type of rare earth at x dollars per ounce. The same analysis of hybrid car forecasts for 2012 in combination with smart phone and ipad numbers would create a baseline for demand. The supply side estimates are readily available, with these 2 calculations, it shouldn't be too hard to guesstimate where prices are going. Right now they're going down, http://www.dachametals.com/Inventory/default.aspx These are all HREEs and the inventory value has lost 20% in the last 6 months. Anyone know where such a study can be found?
Of the materials analyzed, five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium), as well as indium, are assessed as most critical in the short term. For this purpose, “criticality” is a measure that combines importance to the clean energy economy and risk of supply disruption.
I have not seen such a comprehensive study. It is something the US Department of Commerce would be best positioned to do.
Qualitatively, it seems clear that total consumption could be huge. For example, the Prius is reported to contain about 10 Kg of RE, primarily in the drive motor and the high voltage battery. Toyota is producing these at a rate of more than a million/yr. That alone would be 10 million Kg or 10,000 metric tons. Eventually, recycling will be an important source of RE.
With higher gasoline prices, demand for hybrids can only go up. I frequently visit Japan where gasoline is about $8/gallon and Prius' are very common. My Irish relatives report gasoline is 1.89 Euro/liter. That is about $10/gallon. Even our $4/gallon will be incentive enough.
Most of the rare earth in a Prius is Lanthanum. There'll be no shortage of Lanthanum once Molycorp and Lynas achieve their Phase 1 production, let alone a Phase 2. Prius also contains Neodymium. If Molycorp is to make big money, Neodymium could be the sweet spot between fairly high volume, and, depending on demand, a high enough price - but how high that price will remain, remains to be seen.