Driving Progression in Lead-Acid Technology 

Craig RigbyAs we focus on the battery technology of tomorrow, today’s market leader, lead-acid technology, will continue to play a significant role in the future of vehicle energy storage. Below are insights from Craig Rigby, advanced market and technology strategist for Johnson Controls, who moderated a panel at The Battery Show Europe on step-change growth in lead-acid battery technology.

What were the key takeaways from your panel discussion?

The discussion looked at the progression in lead-acid technology as well as future competition from lithium-ion. Our conclusion: it’s not “either, or” – it’s “and”. Lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries will work together to further vehicle electrification, delivering on automaker expectations and meeting consumer needs.

  • Takeaway #1: Lead-acid batteries clearly have a place in the future of energy storage. The number of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) is large and still growing. In 2017, 96% of the 94 million new vehicles built included an ICE engine. And more than 99% of the 1.3 billion vehicles registered on the road today have a traditional powertrain, relying on lead-acid batteries to start the engine and manage the electrical load.
  • Takeaway #2: The most practical way to increase efficiency for mass-market vehicles and meet emissions and fuel economy requirements is through low-voltage electrification. Systems such as 48V electrification use two batteries – one lithium-ion and the other lead-acid – to do what each does best. Dual chemistry options currently offer the most cost-effective solution for low-voltage electrification.
  • Takeaway #3: Even as more sophisticated applications emerge, we see untapped opportunities for lead-acid batteries to support increased vehicle electrification. The panel highlighted two such opportunities. First, a bipolar design can improve cycle life and overall lead weight. Second, enhanced charge acceptance can increase efficiency and cycle life, both essential for handling next-generation vehicle electrical loads.
  • Takeaway #4: The industry must come together to commit to the responsible management of the batteries of today and tomorrow. Lead-acid batteries continue to be the most recycled consumer product in the world at 99%. We must strive to develop life cycle best practices for the next generation of batteries like we see in the lead-acid battery industry, which is the world’s most successful example of a circular economy.

What industry trends do you see emerging over the next five years? 

The rapid change in applications makes this a really exciting time to be working on battery technology. While the two technologies we use today – lead-acid and lithium-ion – are pretty well established, we’re also seeing continuous performance improvement. I expect breakthroughs on specific attributes, with the foundations of the technology remaining solid.

What do you hope to achieve at next year’s show? What connections do you hope to make?

I always look forward to The Battery Show because it provides a well-curated programme of panels and presentations with information that the industry needs on topics such as new technology or the economics of mass-market scale-up. In addition, The Battery Show has a great collection of companies in the exhibition hall, so I look forward to learning about new equipment, technologies and applications.

Johnson Controls develops, manufactures and distributes the world’s smartest portfolio of lead-acid and lithium-ion technologies, delivering uniquely sustainable, next-generation performance. With more than 100 years of experience delivering advanced power solutions and as the leading battery supplier to OEs and aftermarket, the company is well-positioned to meet increasing market demands for energy storage on a global scale. Learn more about Johnson Controls and its participation at The Battery Show here

Johnson Controls were sponsors of The Battery Show Europe 2018.

 You can view Craig Rigby's interview with EXPO TV here.