Lead is not dead – it’s a critical foundation for Europe’s low carbon future

Lead is not dead – it’s a critical foundation for Europe’s low carbon future

The successful European Lead Battery Conference (ELBC) proves that lead is not dead

By: Dr. Bernhard Riegel, Director of Research Development, HOPPECKE Batterien GmbH & Co. KG

While I was on the panel of discussions during the recent ELBC, I was struck by how often and honestly we debated whether there will be a future for lead batteries. While arguments and discussions were varied, overall, attendees of the conference agreed that it’s clear a range of battery technologies are required to realise Europe’s low carbon future ambitions, including lead batteries.

When asked what this low carbon lead battery technology future might encompass – Esteban Hinojosa of Gridtential Energy said that they will continue to perform a significant role in clean mobility through applications such as start stop systems as well as renewable energy storage.

Predictions suggest that global demand for electricity storage from stationary and mobile applications will triple to over 15TWh by 2030. Lead batteries are one of only two battery technologies that have the scale and capability to meet this unmet need. Patrick Clerens, Secretary General of EASE stated that in Europe’s energy storage market, advanced lead batteries are expected to increase their share of the storage market over the next ten years. In Europe, Clerens highlighted that while the energy storage market continues to grow annually, the current cumulative market size is currently only at around 4.8GWh.

An insight gleaned from ELBC was that electrical energy is therefore needed in more and more applications. A significant lead battery example in Europea, HOPPECKE currently offers energy storage solutions in secured power supply (grid) and regenerative energy storage applications.

Clerens also stated stationary energy storage systems can bolster the EU’s investments in e-mobility, supporting fast-charging, new vehicle-to-grid and smart-charging applications.

Lead batteries will also continue to play a role in enabling clean mobility. It’s predicted that by 2030, 80% of cars with an internal combustion engine sold in the EU will be micro-hybrids. Designed to shut off a car’s engine when idling, and restart once pressure is applied to the accelerator, the automatic start-stop system delivers up to 8% CO₂ savings in a highly cost-effective manner. They are an essential onboard component in mild-hybrid, full-hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) and can be installed in EV charging stations to improve their efficiency.

Mark Wallace, President and CEO of Clarios agrees there is a future for lead batteries, “lead batteries will remain essential in all types of new vehicles”. Electric vehicles and hybrids “are still going to need critical systems power – needs best addressed by lead batteries”.

Wallace said projections indicate that the “global car parc may reach 1.9 billion by 2035, driving the need for an additional 200 million batteries”. “As an industry, we are strategically positioned to serve this growing demand.”

When asked during technical debates, Mark Robotti of Hammond Group Inc. stated that with COVID-19, lead batteries have demonstrated their dependability, used to back up the telecoms that global societies now heavily rely upon to communicate virtually. As we continue to navigate forwards virtually, the already crucial lead battery will be needed more and more. Lead batteries have also provided uninterrupted power supply of electricity to hospitals during the crisis.

Continually raised throughout the conference was the reliability and the circular economy principles exemplified by lead batteries and the lead battery supply chain. The average lead battery made in the EU today contains more than 80% recycled materials, and almost all of the lead recovered in the recycling process is used to make new lead batteries. Lead can be recycled indefinitely. For a truly competitive low carbon future, Europe will rely on its strategically autonomous EU-centric supply chain when there are disruptions to other critical raw materials supplies, as has been exemplified during the peak of the pandemic.

After being a panellist at ELBC, witnessing the breadth of discussion, insight and analysis, it was made more than evident that lead is certainly not dead. Analysts, industry leaders, scientists and researchers alike all pointed to a positive, innovative and solid future for lead and lead batteries.

Read here for why more needs to be done for lead batteries.

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