4 January 2019: A reduction in the amount of lead required by China is likely to affect global demand for lead this year, although it is still expected to rise, according to the International Lead and Zinc Study Group in its October forecast, which predicts a 1.3% fall in apparent usage in China.
“In 2018, Chinese apparent usage is expected to fall by 0.6% influenced by a combination of reductions in the motorcycle and e-bike sectors as a consequence of increased penetration by lithium-ion batteries and a slower growth in the automotive sector,” the report says.
“Increases in the e-trike production are not expected to be sufficient to offset this declining trend. A further 1.3% fall in apparent usage in China is anticipated in 2019.”
In Europe, the group said usage was forecast to increase by 1.8% in 2019, while in the US, a rise of 2.5% in 2019 would follow a reduction of 0.6% last year.
Farid Ahmed, principal analyst lead markets with Wood Mackenzie, agreed that slower automotive growth in China would act as a drag on demand, while e-bikes – which have for a long time acted as the powerhouse of China’s growing appetite for lead – were now in permanent decline.
“Further market development for e-trikes and low-speed electric vehicles is being stifled by new regulations intended by the Chinese authorities to limit these largely unregulated and often unsafe additional vehicles spilling on to China’s already over-crowded urban road network,” he told BESB.
“We expect to see this year’s growth in global lead demand to be similar to last year, at around 2.1%. Automotive original equipment growth will be negligible, with any meaningful increase coming from replacement demand, which is anticipated to run at about 3.6%. This could indicate a weakening global economic performance manifesting as people putting off new vehicle purchases and holding on to their existing cars for longer.
“Continued worldwide growth in industrial batteries, forecast at 1.9% globally in 2019, is supported by demand from energy storage systems for renewable power generation and the rollout of 5G mobile networks.
“Overall, growth will be quite steady and the key questions around lead centre on supply more than demand.”