‘How to believe six impossible things before breakfast’ — the EC view

A European battery value chain was launched at a high-level EC consortium on October 11, where business leaders and politicians met to urge the energy storage industry to catch up with China.

“The transcript of the event showed how completely out of touch this meeting was with the reality of the present situation, It’s like the White Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass — how to believe six impossible things before breakfast!” one industry commentator later said.

“This is a clear case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted — it’s too late. Europe’s battery manufacturing business has been engulfed by Asia already.

“Moreover the discussions were hopelessly weighted against lead — it hardly got a mention at all — it is complete foolishness to believe that a proven and existing technology has been usurped by a still unproven one with a host of yet unresolved environmental handicaps, such as recycling still to be dealt with.”

Speaking at the meeting, vice-president of the EC in charge of energy union Maros Sefcovic said that to remain dependant on Asian technology, as is the case today, cannot be an option.

“We need a clear vision to create a European battery alliance, a full value chain of battery alliances established in the EU,” he said, promising that by 2025 the battery sector in Europe would be worth €250 billion ($300 billion) a year — the same size as the Danish economy.

Matthias Machnig, German state secretary of the federal ministry for economic affairs and energy, said a clear industrial policy was needed and investment from OEMs.

“We don’t need more feasibility studies, we need concrete steps forward,” he told the consortium. “We are late in Europe and we have to focus and concentrate on a clear industrial roadmap.”

And in a bid to ensure lead-acid batteries will be a part of the mix, the ILA has urged the commission to remain technology neutral.

“The ILA agrees there is an urgent need for a clear European framework that supports innovation in battery technology… But this must recognize and support the future potential for all battery types, including lead batteries,” an ILA statement read.

“The reality is that internal combustion and electric engines are expected to co-exist for the foreseeable future. Therefore, we must remain technology neutral and encourage the continued development of all battery chemistries through appropriate financial and legislative stimulus.”

Of all the vehicles sold in Europe in 2016, 60% incorporated stop-start, lead battery technology, the ILA said.

“Lead batteries are also present in micro-hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles. In fact, virtually every vehicle on the road in Europe relies on a lead battery, and this demand will continue into the foreseeable future for transportation and critical industrial applications.”

Rene Schroeder, executive director of EUROBAT, said the initiative was welcomed but said all technologies should be considered.

“EUROBAT believes that one key condition for the success of this initiative is that coherence must be found for a regulatory framework that ensures a further development of all existing and new battery technologies in Europe,” he said.

“A variety of battery chemistries and technologies exists today: lead, lithium, sodium and nickel batteries. They all answer to different demands in terms of performance, capabilities and applications. Batteries play a key role in the development of cleaner vehicles, from start-stop technology to various degrees of powertrain hybridization and the emergence of full electric passenger vehicles, trucks and buses.

“However, internal combustion engine and electric vehicles will co-exist for the foreseeable future, and full advantage of all possible CO2 emission saving potential from automotive batteries in all types of vehicles should be taken.”