Lead batteries ‘still a driving force’, says ILA

Lead batteries ‘still a driving force’, says ILA

Lead batteries ‘still a driving force’, says ILA 821 513 Batteries International

February 24, 2022: The automotive market is set to be a “major driver” for lead demand up to and beyond 2030, ILA managing director Andy Bush told a February 18 webinar hosted by the India Lead Zinc Development Association.

Bush told the webinar — ‘Global Outlook for Lead & Zinc 2022 & Beyond’ — research from Avicenne Energy indicated that the auto market was experiencing “significant transition” that would benefit lead.

“Lead batteries are expected to dominate this market up to 2030 and beyond and that is going to be a major driver for lead demand through 2030 and beyond,” Bush said.

“There is significant growth in micro hybrids, which represents a significant and growing market for lead worldwide.

‘Lower cost’

“Europe has led the way for the adoption of micro hybrids, followed by the US and other regions of the world, which are adopting them at different paces.”

Bush warned more work would be needed to ensure lead batteries continued to meet performance requirements for micro and mild hybrid vehicles — requirements that he said was “comfortably attainable for lead batteries and, critically obtainable at a much lower cost than lithium batteries”.

And despite the growth of the electric vehicles market, Bush said the implications for lead were still positive.

“EV market penetration forecasts vary substantially, but we tend to use Avicenne’s scenarios, which predict a market penetration for lead of maybe 20% by 2030 into the new vehicle market.”

‘Still work to do’

“Avicenne also, critically, predicts that EVs will continue to use 12V auxiliary lead batteries and that’s something that we also feel confident will continue,” Bush said.

“And we mustn’t forget that roughly 80% of the 12V market is the aftermarket, so lead battery demand is really baked in… whether that’s in EVs or combustion engine vehicles.

“We don’t see lead batteries being replaced in either of those markets for the foreseeable future.”

Bush acknowledged there was “still work to do” to improve the performance of auxiliary batteries for EVs, to ensure they “remain the technology of choice in the future”.

‘Sweet spots for lead’

Meanwhile, lead batteries are a “strong contender” to flourish in the energy storage sector, particularly for the residential market, which is expected to see massive growth in demand “even by conservative forecasts”, Bush said.

Smaller-scale industrial applications up to 10MW are also “sweet spots” for lead batteries, he added.

“Even if lead batteries only take a relatively small share of that market, it will represent a significant demand for lead in the future. The question is what does it take to achieve that, because lead currently has a very small share there.”

Increased research to improve the performance of batteries, especially in terms of calendar and cycle life and efficiency, without increasing costs, is also key and is something CBI is focused on.

But Bush reiterated ongoing challenges — such as policy and legislative threats posed to the lead industry in Europe.

‘Challenging market’

The US market is also “entering an active period of legislative reform on lead”, Bush warned. “Critically, there is a lack of any substantive market substitution legislation unlike Europe”.

“But longer term we have to recognize that, as an industry globally, there will be pressure to substitute hazardous materials in general, including lead, and so we need to keep that under constant review.”

In traditional markets, telecoms continues to be dominated by lead batteries and demand is expected to remain stable.

Lead is also expected to eat further into the UPS market, where Bush said Avicenne predicts growth of around 1.5% through to 2030.

Motive power is “the most challenging” market for lead batteries, with forecasts of a 2% decline of the lead share of that market up to 2030, with lithium making greater inroads.

‘Significant demand’

But that does not take into account “the enormous potential for lead batteries in e-bikes and e-trikes”, Bush said.

According to estimates from CHR Metals’ Huw Roberts, about 2.5 million tonnes of lead is going into that market annually, which Bush said was “quite extraordinary”.

“Most analysts will see that market is now close to maturity in China and we would not argue with that, but there is a large and barely exploited market for lead batteries in e-bikes in Asia, including China, where we see that the two and three-wheeled transport fleets are currently dominated by ICEs.

“Lead batteries offer a great solution here — electrifying those ICE fleets at a very low cost compared to lithium and reducing carbon emissions.

“This market is so big even if lead took even a modest share it would amount to significant demand for lead batteries over the next decade.”

Photo: ILA managing director Andy Bush.