The new design uses magnets made from iron power "and other easily obtainable materials," rather than magnets made of rare earths neodymium and dysprosium, the report said. The new magnets are 10 to 20 times cheaper than the rare-earth version and reduces dependence on rare earth supplies from China.
The news comes after a tense period for relations between China and Japan. The countries were locked in dispute over the arrest by Japanese authorities of a Chinese trawler captain. At the height of the tensions, reports emerged that China cut off rare earth supplies to Japan, although China denied making such a move.