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The Future of Lead Batteries: Has Lead Reached Its Limit?

By John Miller, Senior Director of Product Engineering, Stryten Manufacturing

The ever-increasing availability of new battery technologies on the market often raises two critical questions:

  • Is Stryten betting its future on lead or lithium?
  • What is the future of lead batteries?

In response to the first question, Stryten’s approach will always be focused on our customers. Our first priority is to identify each customer’s need, and then find the best solution for that need, regardless of technology. We are not betting our future on any one solution. Instead, we believe the future will involve great battery technology, which will include both lead and lithium solutions, depending on customer needs.

As for the question of the future of lead batteries, lead will continue to play a critical role in powering vehicles, markets and industries. Some in the industry have looked at newer technologies as a potential replacement for lead batteries, but we believe multiple battery technologies are needed to meet the growing demand for energy storage solutions. The trends and facts below provide plenty of reasons not to overlook lead when planning for the next century of innovations.

Market trends for innovative lead batteries:

  • The electric vehicle market continues to grow, and with it, so does the need for lead batteries to provide critical backup power for safety features such as power steering and braking systems. Additionally, the rise of electric devices in modern vehicles for infotainment systems and safety features, like lane departure sensors and brake assist, requires more robust batteries to keep up with the greater demand for power.
  • As large distribution centers experience growth and higher demand, lead batteries in motive power applications must stand up to heavy duty performance requirements. When combined with fast charging capabilities, lead batteries provide greater energy efficiencies and more uptime. 
  • Network power applications used for backup power by telecommunications, utilities and data center providers depend on lead batteries. These providers have come to rely on this proven technology because of their reliability, thermal runaway safety, lower total cost of ownership and resiliency to power critical infrastructure, often in tough environmental conditions.
  • The demand for energy storage continues to grow as more renewable energy sources come online.  Renewable energy is a key component in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and shrinking our carbon footprint. Lead batteries offer a cost-effective option in storing energy generated by renewable sources such as solar and wind.

 

Why lead is still a leader:

  • According to the Consortium for Battery Innovation, more than 70 percent of global rechargeable energy storage needs are met by lead batteries.
  • Lead batteries are 99 percent recyclable, leading the world in product sustainability.  No other energy storage technology can come close to this claim.
  • More than 80 percent of a new lead battery is made of recycled material. Lead itself is an infinitely recyclable material, without losing any quality or performance characteristics.
  • Lead has been a stable energy platform for more than 100 years.
  • Lead batteries are ripe for innovation. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, only a small fraction of the actual mass in lead batteries is utilized.
  • According to Lang Marketing Resources, Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars and light trucks will account for 95% share of the market by 2030. The U.S. currently has more than 280 million registered vehicles and a projected 17 million vehicle sales expected in 2020. Today’s average vehicle lifespan is just over 12 years (IHS Market), which means lead batteries will be relevant as the primary energy source for transportation for decades to come.
  • Lead batteries support start-stop technology in automobiles, and they eliminate 4.5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually in the United States.
  • On a dollar per kilowatt hour (kWH) basis, lead batteries are three times to ten times less expensive than competing battery and energy storage systems, making them the economical choice for many applications.

Has lead reached its limit in the battery technology battle? The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts global renewable power capacity requirements will rise 50 percent in the next five years and will require all battery chemistries, including lead and lithium, to provide reliable energy storage to meet increased demand. While lithium is growing its market share and has dominated the overall share of investment in research and development, interest and progress in lead research projects is growing. Industry experts believe lead battery technology can be improved in performance areas such as cycle life and dynamic charge acceptance, which are critical to developing the innovative batteries needed for the future. When it comes to battery technologies that will shape the future, lead definitely won’t be left behind.

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