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BCI Sessions(Lead-acid) Summary No. 1
by Donald Georgi

The implication of No. 1 in the title implies that in later issues there will later be additional summaries, and that is exactly what is intended. This article is also intended to be a compact overview of presentations outside the areas of keynotes, marketing, lead analysis and regulatory issues which will be covered in other parts of BD.

The Battery Council International (BCI) Conference is the meeting place for suppliers and manufacturers of Lead – acid batteries.  Because of its long history and because of the more recent additions of new chemistries, Lead – acid is often thought of as a dying industry.  Lead-acid batteries have low energy density using an element-lead which, if left to the environment, would be hazardous to health. Unfortunately, for its opponents, Lead – acid chemistry has a mature process which offers high power density, low material and manufacturing costs and wide operating temperature range. The Lead–acid industry has reached maturity and because of the many suppliers; it could be considered as operating within a commodity market.  Despite these limitations, there is a healthy, proactive group of organizations which are promoting Lead-acid benefits and developing improvements to facilitate a high quality of life.

Rather than being a dinosaur, the Lead-acid battery should be thought of as a unique battery, just as a bicycle wheel is differentiated from the tractor  wheel.  The bicycle wheel and the  tractor wheel meet different user needs.  

In the following summaries, the focus will be principally on highlights of BCI’s 2004 presentation details which will continue to make  Lead–acid chemistry a viable power source far into the future.

Adobe Photoshop ImageDelphi’s roadmap for the evolution of the electric drive for transportation begins with the current ICE powered auto, progresses to the stop – start configuration, transitions to the mild hybrid with regenerative braking and torque boost, advances to the full hybrid and eventually powers the full electric vehicle with a fuel cell.

The current ICE vehicles which are powered by Lead-acid batteries will most likely continue to be configured with that chemistry rather than moving to Lithium ion or Nickel-metal hydride because the energy price potential and cycle life price potential are drastically in favor of Lead–acid.

The stop – start configuration still favors the Lead – acid battery over other chemistries by a factor of 7 to 10 when considering both the energy price potential and the cycle life price potentials, despite the additional cycle life offered by more modern chemistries.

Mild hybrids may offer more possibility for Nickel-metal hydride and Lithium-ion when considering the cycle life price potential.  A stumbling block for Lead-acid is the 15 years cycle life, despite providing superior operating temperature ranges.

The full hybrid begins to show the erosion of price desirability for Lead-acid when compared to Lithium–ion and Nickel-metal hydride cycle life price potential. Neither the shallow cycle life nor deep cycle life appears acceptable for Lead - acid, but yet, Lead-acids continues to provide better operating temperature ranges. Similar comparisons exist for the full electric power plants with a fuel cell which is anticipated not be available until after 2010. (Permission for graphic reproduction is courtesy of Delphi Energy & Chassis Systems, facilitated by Pankaj Dhingra.)  +

The Future Of The Industrial Battery Industry
     –Wade Roberts, Jr., C & D Technologies

Rather then being a factual review, this presentation was based on Mr. Roberts, personal observations. He described C & D as a leading supplier positioned within the industrial Lead - acid marketplace which will continue to demand batteries  for  power sources. Demand for standby battery power has declined and  motive power has increased  in the recent recovery. Overall there appears to be an industrial demand pickup.

There have been battery company consolidations between C & D and Dynasty, Enersys and Hawker, Exide and GNB, JSB and Yuasa, plus others. There has also been a consolidation by materials suppliers such as RSR, Doe Run and Exide.

He  pointed out that lead prices have declined by 25 percent, but even with the recent price fluctuations, battery producers have been able to deal with the cost of lead. Smelting has been reduced by about 700,000 tons, and a 97 percent recycle rate of batteries provides for the reserve supply of lead to continue on for 25 years.

The Future of the Automobile Battery
     – Pankaj Dhingra, Delphi Energy & Chassis Systems

This was an especially appropriate presentation because it was given by a member of the Delphi organization, which is heavily involved in  developing and producing the power or systems of future transportation. New transportation technologies are driven by consumer’s desires for more electrical features, government emission requirements and the vision of a future for fuel cells in transportation. The stimulus for these changes will be rising oil prices and lower emission requirements.

One must keep in mind that the projections utilize linear thinking with current technology or moderate levels of breakthrough.  Considering the time frame, some disruptive technology could upset transportation’s evolution.