First wave of attack targets political representatives
JUNE 19, 2019: EUROBAT’s forum in Berlin on June 13-14 called members to arms at a powerful assembly that also elected new president Marc Zoellner — who was widely hailed by many delegates as the man who could save the European lead battery industry.
Delegates also told Batteries International the forum was the first time in many years they had witnessed such strong support for lead batteries from EUROBAT. Many said off the record that they had great faith in Hoppecke CEO Zoellner, who was elected president after Johann-Friedrich Dempwolff retired from the post after six years.
Thomas Bareiss, parliamentary state secretary in the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy gave the keynote address about the importance of energy storage in the future. However, Zoellner immediately challenged Bareiss about the lack of investment being channelled towards lead battery development despite a pledge from the German government to make funding available for lithium ion projects.
Bareiss admitted that while the German government was supposedly chemistry agnostic, lead batteries had not been considered in the drive towards electric vehicles.
“We want to emphasize the potential that’s in our technology with advanced lead acid batteries, projects we have heard about that need funding. It’s only fair that lead technology is budgeted for as well,” Zoellner told Batteries Internationalafterwards.
“What the minister was saying was that there’s a focus on electro-mobility so there is a logic behind what he said but it needs to be fair.
“Technology agnostic means to support different technologies for different applications and there are certainly clear lead markets ahead of us which we see rising. There are certainly applications for lithium ion ahead of us — big energy storage systems, electric vehicles, automotive. But there are other applications clearly staying with lead – automotive, low-voltage systems, UPS applications and I also see lead with hybrid applications.”
EU affairs manager Francesco Gattiglio called on EUROBAT members to lobby their local MEPs, trade associations, national governments and all political parties to get the message across that all battery chemistries were valid and must be given equal consideration when it came to regulation and budget.
“We are calling on all members to lobby the lobbyists,” he said. “We need to be talking to MEPs, political parties, national associations. We have a sustainable industry and we have to prove it to the European Commission. That’s our challenge.”
The initiative involves EUROBAT working with the International Lead Association in a five-year campaign to put forward the case for lead — starting off just as new MEPs take their seats in the European Parliament.
EUROBAT and the ILA would be seeking clarification from the new ministers on many issues, he said.
“With hazardous materials there is an exemption in lead used in SLI batteries — we need to know if this exemption will be granted again. There are also socio-economic considerations – they must be taken into account or it will not be fair. And we need to show that lead is sustainable.
“Who will have the biggest obligation to recycle the batteries? Will this be clarified in the new directive?” (The EU is purportedly revising the directive next year, but timing and extent are vague.)
“We are going to try to convince them that targets for collection are not necessary, that we don’t want codes on batteries for scanning, nor recycling efficiency rates put higher.”
When asked by a member of the assembly who had decided that lithium batteries were ‘green’ and lead batteries were not, Gattiglio said: “It’s not that they don’t see lead as green — it’s that they don’t see lead.
“The European Commission proposes the legislation, the European Parliament checks it, then the council of member states looks at that. We need to lobby all of them.”
Gattiglio said the next five years — from 2019 to 2024 — would see campaigns launched by EUROBAT and the International Lead Association, such as ‘Charge the Future’, which would focus on the new Battery Directive, REACH consortium proposals to add lead to its list of hazardous substances, and End-of-Life regulations.
In a later presentation, Steve Binks, regulatory affairs director at the ILA, made the point that while all batteries made in Europe would have to adhere to whatever regulations were eventually put in place, none of the rules would apply to imports.
“It will stop European manufacturing in its tracks but not apply to imported batteries,” he said. “The Battery Directive is too inflexible — it hasn’t caught up with the technology, and we will try to address this point.”
So will the lead battery companies step in and lobby the decision makers?
Gertrud Moll-Möhrstedt, managing partner at lead battery manufacturer Akkumulatorenfabrik MOLL, based in Bavaria, Germany, says her company is already doing its part.
“I’m talking to everyone,” she said. “We give company tours to anyone who asks, we talk to local politicians, we even talk to schools to explain the value of a lead battery. You have to make them understand it’s an approved technology and it’s the only one with such a high recycling rate.
“We make presentations to ministers, we are doing what we can and I believe other companies are too.”