Rare earth metals are important for the production of many high-tech devices, including smartphones and the magnets in motors. About 80 percent of the global supply of these metals comes from China, and in the past, the country has restricted access to some of them for political reasons.
In 2010, for example, it blocked exports to Japan for two months over a territorial dispute. That incident that prompted Japanese companies like Honda to start working to reduce their reliance on rare earth metals.
So the motor announced on Tuesday is a big deal, not just in terms of technology but of geopolitics, too.