UK startup AEM raises $29 mln to scale up rare earth, copper free EV motors

By Nick Carey

LONDON, Nov 20 (Reuters) - UK startup Advanced Electric Machines (AEM) has raised 23 million pounds ($29 million) to scale up production of its electric vehicle motors that contain no rare earths or copper so are entirely recyclable.

The Series A funding round was led by Legal & General LGEN.L unit Legal & General Capital and Barclays BARC.L Sustainable Impact Capital initiative that invests in climate startups, AEM said on Monday

Based in Washington in England's industrial northeast, AEM already has a commercial rare earth free motor in use in electric buses and other vehicles in Europe, North America and Asia, CEO James Widmer said.

The investment round will enable the company to start producing an EV motor that is also free of copper for both passenger cars and commercial vehicles. Those motors can boost an EV's range by at least 10%, Widmer said.

AEM is working with Volkswagen's VOWG_p.DE luxury brand Bentley on developing an EV motor, but Widmer said he could not name other potential customers.

"We are in active conversations with (automaker) customers in Europe and beyond," Widmer said.

European, U.S. and Japanese automakers have been pushing to make EV motors with little to no rare earth content, racing for alternatives as China dominates the mining and processing of the group of 17 metals.

Widmer said EV motors made with rare earth permanent magnets contain around 10 kilograms (22 lb) of copper and rare earth free alternatives on the market can contain double that.

As copper has a similar melting point to steel, it is difficult to recycle motors containing copper, but AEM's aluminium and steel motors can be easily recycled after being melted in a furnace, Widmer said.

"We are big on sustainability and that's the reason we've been able to convince some really exciting investors to put money into the business," Widmer said.

($1 = 0.8071 pounds)

(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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