Lead batteries are key to the clean mobility future which will keep Europe competitive


Ludwig Merz

Internal Strategy Consultant

Accumulatorenwerke HOPPECKE Carl Zoellner & Sohn GmbH

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Lead batteries are key to the clean mobility future which will keep Europe competitive

As the transition to a sustainable, low carbon European economy becomes imperative, so will the battery technologies needed to support the transition.

At HOPPECKE, we develop the breadth of batteries needed for forklift trucks, to mobile energy systems for powering industrial and commercial vehicles, as well as for rail- and for stationary applications. Thanks to the proven, affordable and easy-to-use lead battery technology, the share of battery-powered forklifts today represents 80% of the total forklift sales in Europe. Driven by the battery industry, Europe is already a pioneer in electrification of inter- and intralogistics transportation.

Besides driving vehicles in the logistics and other industries, lead batteries are present in over 300 million motor vehicles in the EU. And with vehicles representing more than 30% of final energy consumption in Europe, it’s clear that the transition to an energy efficient, decarbonised transport sector is central to achieving Europe’s climate change targets.

Three ‘Europe On the Move’ packages and accompanying legislative initiatives have outlined a long-term plan to deliver clean, socially fair, competitive mobility to all Europeans. This plan includes average CO2 emissions targets for new cars and vans that are 30% lower in 2030, compared to 2021. As the technology behind ‘start-stop’ micro-hybrid vehicles, lead batteries are already delivering up to 10% CO2 savings in a highly cost-effective manner.

Europe on the Move III also introduced a Strategic Action Plan on Batteries focused on the challenge of developing sustainable Europe-based battery value chains to power the transition. As a European success story, the lead battery value chain is an  example for the wider battery industry in meeting this challenge.

Encouragingly, these elements are all echoed in last week’s recent Commissioner-designate hearings – the hearing of the Romanian nominee for Commissioner-designate for Transport, Adina-Ioana Valean included the topic of clean and sustainable mobility. She identified the uptake of clean vehicles as an area for action aimed at reducing the CO2 emissions from transport by 90% by 2050 and aims to present a ‘Strategy on Sustainable and Smart Mobility’, by the end of next year. Given lead batteries are an essential onboard component in mild-hybrid, full-hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) and can also be installed in EV charging stations to improve their efficiency, our industry would welcome the recognition of the battery mix in such key future plans.

French Commissioner-designate for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton had his hearing too, in which he focused on sector value chains as part of an industrial strategy – he recognises batteries are a successful example of Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI); one which shows support for value chains in key industries where Europe has a chance to lead, and consequently hinder competition from US and China. This is a particular poignant reminder this week as the EU celebrates Raw Materials Week – given that 90% of a lead battery is recycled at end of life and nearly all of the lead recovered is re-used in batteries. This gold standard in circular economy also ensures the European lead battery industry is a home-grown one without the reliance on outside sources to keep its competitive edge.

And if we think about future clean mobility we also think about autonomous driving. As a base for most of the future transit scenarios the connectivity and online connection of vehicles is a key requirement and the security of the latter is becoming more and more crucial. Here lead batteries have already played an indispensable role for decades, by securing the power supply of the relay stations and transmission towers, and will be even more important in the future. Lead batteries have a proven track record of more than a century of reliability; today they underpin the success of hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) as well as the renewable energy storage they rely on – an integral part of Europe’s clean mobility future.

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