The demise of the lead–acid battery has been predicted for decades, but will the combination of ever-tightening legislation, rival chemistries and new technology finally sound the death knell for this venerable battery? Future demand will be driven by growth in the Asian automotive sector, but which largely depends on China's ability to sustain its rate of development. Can India evolve quickly enough to compensate for a Chinese economic slowdown? Or will the rapid progress of electric vehicles (EVs) kill the automotive lead battery? Many countries have announced ambitious plans to eradicate the internal combustion engine and compel new car buyers to go all-electric. The common perception is that EVs will decimate the market for lead although the reality is that EVs continue to use auxiliary lead–acid batteries. The key questions about EVs are how much demand will be offset by their use of smaller lead–acid batteries, and their rate of market penetration especially when growing EV numbers make subsidies less sustainable? Adoption of 48-V systems offers the prospect of improving efficiency and performance to meet regulators' imperatives for reduced environmental impact from motor vehicles. Lead–acid can fulfil this potential but needs to convince automakers that it can compete with lithium-ion. Bipolar designs could tip the balance in lead's favour if recent developments come to fruition for mass market production and thereby rival Li-ion in performance and win in terms of recyclability and lifetime cost of ownership. The latest and best technology will be essential for lead–acid to compete for market share in the fastest growing battery sector, namely, industrial applications. Huge increases in global energy-storage capacity will be required to meet impressive programmes for additional renewable power generation. The crucial question for lead is: can genuinely persuasive arguments that lead–acid technology is best win over negative sentiment and stop Li-ion eating the lion's share of this feast of new business?
Wood Mackenzie Ltd
Principal Analyst Lead Markets
Farid Ahmed has spent his entire career in the metals industry after graduating from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom with an honours degree in Metallurgy. His introduction into the lead industry occurred in the early 1990s as a Production Metallurgist for a large European producer. In 2005, he founded a business consultancy that focused on the metals industry and on lead in particular. In 2015, he joined Wood Mackenzie as Principal Analyst Lead Markets.