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.
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.