February 12, 2021: Electric car maker Tesla said on February 4 that it will replace the auxiliary lead batteries with lithium-ion in future versions of its models S and X.
Describing the transition, the company said replacing the ‘same old cumbersome 12-volt lead-acid battery that you’ll have to replace after some years of use’ was a glimpse of the future.
Elon Musk is quoted on the Tesla website as saying, “We should have done it before, but it’s great that we’re doing it now,” and that the lithium equivalent has a lot more capacity and matches the cycle life of the main pack.
Tesla’s decision is bound to cause a stir in an industry that has always stressed that because electric vehicles all contain a lead accessory battery, the harm to the sector in the move to EVs is not overly problematic.
Yet a report by the market research and consulting agency Fact.MR, based in Dubai, says the lead battery industry is actually looking forward to the growth of the EV market.
“Lead acid battery manufacturers are especially banking on the growing penetration of electric vehicles,” it says. “As of 2019, light EV sales amounted to more than two million units, representing a 9% growth compared to 2018. The global EV stock is poised to reach nearly 140 million units, constituting 7% of the global vehicle fleet, with Europe and Asia emerging as key hotspots.
“As manufacturers seek out greener and cleaner energy alternatives, demand for lead acid batteries is anticipated to surge across prominent geographies, prompting players to invest in extensive research and development projects.”
Consortium for Battery Innovation managing director Alistair Davidson, says: “A new study of automotive technology trends undertaken by Ricardo Strategic Consulting predicts that almost all light-duty vehicles are likely to feature a 12V board net, and thus require either a 12V Starting Lighting Ignition battery, or a 12V auxiliary battery, for the foreseeable future.
“In the 12V market, lead batteries remain the product of choice for nearly all OEMS and this is supported by a recent analysis of the global rechargeable battery market undertaken by Avicenne Energy. Lead batteries are chosen because they have advantages over lithium, including significantly lower unit cost, vehicle compatibility, enhanced high temperature performance, flexibility for in-vehicle battery location, standardization, maturity of supply chains, safety and recyclability.
“Moreover a recent lifecycle assessment produced by Sphera, a sustainability consultancy, has highlighted that over their full lifecycle there is little difference in the environmental footprint of 12V lead and lithium batteries, but crucially the manufacturing of 12V lead batteries in Europe currently has up to six times lower global warming potential.
“For these reasons there is no doubt that 12V lead batteries will remain critical to the vast majority of vehicles on the road for the next decade and beyond — from conventional to hybrids and pure electric.”