It is with sadness that Batteries International has just heard of the death of William Brecht who died at his home in Rio Rancho, New Mexico on June 3, 2023.
Bill was a larger-than-life figure in the battery business for over four decades, making huge contributions to the advancement of the industry’s engineering and technology and even occasionally nick-named “a rogue genius” for the originality of his thinking.
Bill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 14, 1948. He graduated from Lafayette College with a science degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in nuclear engineering in 1971.
In 1974 he joined Exide Battery in Philadelphia. A combination of hard work and innovative thinking helped him climb the corporate ladder at the battery giant in the early 1980s to become vice president of technology. During this time he became known as the as “The Father of the Load Hog” — an industrial forklift battery a concept which formed the basis of some of his later research. He subsequently moved to become a VP for C&D.
After that he ran two factories for Evanite Fiber Corporation, a battery components manufacturer, before moving back to battery research as CTO at Trojan Battery Company.
Given his deep background in battery seals and profound interest in bipolar batteries he was then lured to work for Atraverda in Wales.
On retirement he was widely sought after as a consultant for Sebang Global Battery in South Korea, and Full River Battery in China. He was also one of the cofounders of bipolar firm Advanced Battery Concepts.
Bill was a highly respected technologist in his specialty field of lead acid battery technology and battery charging technology. He was an enthusiastic electrochemist with 53 US and foreign patents to his name.
One friend wrote: “Bill left an indelible mark on the world with his inventions in both motive and stationary power touching everyday lives of people. Working with the nuclear navy (submarine batteries), mining equipment, fork lift, scissor lift, utility vehicles, marine batteries, and golf cart batteries. He invented battery chargers for golf carts, and more.
“He invented the Single Point Powering system. He developed battery separators and a sealing technology for lead acid batteries as well as working with telecoms around the world with telecommunications, and back-up power systems for the New York Stock Exchange and many government agencies.”
Perhaps lesser known are some of his other inventions outside of the world of batteries such as a patent for a zero tracking turntable (for high quality stereo players).
He was a lifetime member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Power Electronics Society) and contributed as management, technical program chairman, program presenter among other things for Intelec, the International Telecommunications and Energy Conference. He was part of the battery standards committees for Battery Council International and also played an active role with the ALABC (the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium, now known as the CBI.
For the first part of his retirement Bill bought a bar restaurant near his home on Long Beach California called Quinn’s Irish Pub only to find he was still much in demand as a consultant. On his final retirement he sold Quinn’s and moved to New Mexico.
The personal side of his life was fulfilled by his long time wife and partner Laura — they were married for 49 years — and a consuming interest a love of sailing which he had from an early age. He was an accomplished sailor.
In his last years Bill’s health was a troubled one. He survived two cancer episodes and also had a heart valve replacement with two back-to-back strokes that left him in an electric wheelchair for the last 12 years of his life. His wife, Laura, was a kind and dedicated caretaker.
“He was a great person to be with, interesting and fun but one of the most inventive minds I’ve met,” said a friend. “It might even be fair to call him a genius.”
He leaves behind his wife Laura, daughters Audrey Moran (and granddaughters, Maggie Jean and Daisy Jo Moran), and Vanessa Gibson (and granddaughter Piper Elle Gibson).
His ashes were committed to the ocean off Long Beach, California on October 13, 2023.
This is an abbreviated version of Bill’s life, a fuller obituary will appear in the next issue of Batteries International which will be published in April.