London CNN Business  — 

Jaguar Land Rover has joined forces with BMW to make electric motors that do not require rare earths, minerals that could be the next front in the US-China trade war.

The German carmaker said in a statement on Wednesday that it would work with Jaguar Land Rover to develop electric vehicle technology in Munich.

It’s the latest example of automakers teaming up to share the steep costs of developing new technologies including electric cars and autonomous driving systems.

The project comes with an added benefit: The companies will develop the electric motors of the future based on a new BMW (BMWYY) drive unit that does not require rare earth minerals, the vast majority of which are produced in China.

The motor, which BMW describes as the fifth generation of its eDrive technology, will be used for the first time next year in the company’s iX3 SUV.

Carmakers have for years used rare earths such as neodymium in the motors that power electric cars. When combined with boron and iron, neodymium can be used to create magnets that convert energy into movement.

A BMW iX3 on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in 2018.

Rare earths refer to 17 minerals with magnetic and conductive properties that help power most electronic devices. They’re used in everything from smartphones to tablets and smart speakers.

Despite their name, rare earth minerals are not actually rare. But China controls more than 90% of production, according to the US Geological Survey.

Beijing last week issued a thinly veiled threat about rare earths to the United States, suggesting it may choose to restrict exports in retaliation for US tariffs on Chinese goods.

China has flexed that muscle before. In 2010, following a dispute with Japan over contested islands, China cut off rare earth exports to that country. That sent the price of neodymium and other rare earths soaring.

Avoiding rare earths will help to protect BMW and Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by India’s Tata Motors (TTM), from any potential supply disruptions.

It should also alleviate concerns about the environmental impact of extracting the minerals.