New EU battery innovation blueprint under fire over ‘neglect’ of lead

New EU battery innovation blueprint under fire over ‘neglect’ of lead

New EU battery innovation blueprint under fire over ‘neglect’ of lead 1024 930 Batteries International

March 21, 2024: A new European Commission policy report aimed at shaping the future of the EU’s battery sector has come under fire for neglecting the role of advanced lead batteries.

The potential for lead in the automotive and ESS sectors is not considered in the Strategy for Research and Innovation Agenda, drawn up with the Battery European Partnership Association (BEPA) and which was presented in an online seminar yesterday — during which Batteries International challenged the omission of lead batteries.

Ironically, the only mention that lead gets in the 98-page report is a reference to its near-100% recycling record over other battery materials.

BEPA executive director Wouter IJzermans told Batteries International during the seminar lead battery technology had not been “in the scope” of the new strategy, which was “very much focused on lithium ion, sodium ion and others”.

IJzermans, who is also senior consultant at European consultancy Clerens, which manages BEPA, said stationary application topics are generally written in a chemistry-neutral way — “so the best proposals and best technologies win regardless of chemistry”.

However, lead battery industry leaders have hit back, noting that the seminar came just a day after the chairman of Eurohold Bulgaria, Asen Hristov, told a conference at the European Parliament: “The EU pays little if no attention to the best way to accumulate energy, namely lead acid batteries”.

Hristov’s holdings group features a range of companies including those in the automotive sector.

Media network Euractiv, which reported on the conference, said Asen told the conference the EU’s neglect of recognition for lead batteries — including the recycling advantages — was a “loophole” in sustainability policies.

“The EU finances projects for batteries which hardly contain any metal produced in the EU, namely lithium ion batteries,” he said.

According to the new strategy report, “imperatives” necessary to energize a competitive battery value chain in the EU include improving batteries based on materials that are more abundant and pushing for better integration into end-use applications.

The report urges EU leaders to support local and circular supply chains that increase the strategic autonomy of Europe by reducing the reliance on foreign critical raw materials.

Consortium for Battery Innovation executive director Alistair Davidson told Batteries International: “The report’s failure to recognize advanced lead batteries is surprising given that the EU is funding CBI projects using this technology.

“From microgrids to grid stabilization, the EU must consider a battery eco-system making best use of all technologies capable of operating at scale.”

Davidson said advanced lead batteries provide essential battery energy storage and are critical to achieving future electrification and decarbonization goals in Europe.

International Lead Association executive director Andy Bush said: “As well as Europe being a center of excellence for advanced lead battery manufacturing, EU lead battery recycling provides a secure domestic supply of raw materials — supporting thousands of SMEs and highly skilled jobs across member states.”

According to analysis published in 2022, the lead battery industry is worth an estimated €15 billion ($16 billion) of value added or gross domestic product a year to the European economy.

Last April, the CBI and ILA announced the opening of an office in Brussels to support the lead and lead battery value chains, and planned energy storage projects.

Last month, German Christian Democrat European Parliament member Peter Liese told the launch of EUROBAT’s EU elections manifesto that the lead battery industry could breathe a sigh of relief and help energize Europe’s clean energy transition following the departure from the Commission of former Green Deal supremo Frans Timmermans —  widely regarded as one of the industry’s bogeymen.

However, in light of the new strategy report, an industry insider told Batteries International today: “Just when we think we’ve educated policymakers in Brussels about the role lead battery technology can play, they let us down. Lead may not be the solution for every application, but it is an invaluable part of the energy storage mix and the EU ignores it at its peril.”