BCI’s Thorsby positive for 2017 despite challenges


Despite the turbulent political events shaping perceptions of the future for the lead battery industry, BCI executive vice-president Mark Thorsby says he is positive about the year ahead for the lead battery industry.

Speaking to BESB just into the new year, Thorsby looked to what the year ahead has in store, including a new-look BCI conference, which will be held in Jacksonville, Florida on May 1.

“The political decisions that have been made in the US are going to have a dramatic impact on our industry, particularly in the US, but I think it’s going to be positive,” said Thorsby.

“It looks like there will be less federal pressure to regulate the industry — which is the most heavily regulated in the US. This may shift the pressure to the states themselves, and standardization is going to be a challenge, but we are prepared for that.”

With the increasing need for mobile access to electricity, Thorsby said demand would grow exponentially over the next decade.

“Part of Trump’s agenda over time will be to make that energy more and more available,” he said. “The need for electricity runs everything. And that depends on our industry.”

The lead battery industry would have to work hard to meet the challenges ahead, he said, and a lot depended on the ability to make technological improvements.

“We need to have the ability to advance the capacity for lead batteries, to improve performance, charging, speeds, dealing with partial states of charge and discharge, start-stop technology, and so on. Our ability to improve the performance of industrial batteries is key to being able to compete more efficiently with lithium ion. And of course, limiting our exposure to lead while we do so — which is still going to have challenges.”

He said a lot of progress had been made in this regard, and data collection was taking place on a massive scale so that detailed analysis could be carried out later in the year.

On May 1, more than 650 people are expected to the BCI conference, speakers for which are still being finalized.

“I can tell you about one — George Crabtree, from Argonne National Laboratory,” he said. “He will talk about the work they are doing with energy storage. And we expect presentations from GM, JCI, the University of Chicago, the Department of Energy…

“And we’re having an overhaul. We’ve changed the look and design of the exhibition stalls and everything, we will have a theatre where speakers can be interviewed, and a Genius Bar. We’re extending the hours and of course we’ll hold the innovation awards (created in honour of Sally Breidegam Miksiewicz, the late CEO of East Penn Manufacturing, who died in 2014 at the age of 52) for which we haven’t received any entries as yet.”

Out of last year’s 19 entries, the winner of the award was the Hammond Group, for its innovation and technical breakthrough {which} dramatically improves lead-acid battery charge acceptance and cycle life.”