Almost everywhere you look there is news about improvements in lithium-based batteries and storage technologies. But what about traditional lead-based batteries? Are they a dying energy storage source? To answer that question, let’s take a look at trends in each market and the overlapping market space for each.
The lead-acid battery is the earliest type of rechargeable battery. Potential energy is stored chemically in an aqueous sulphuric acid bath as the potential difference between the pure lead at the negative side and the PbO2 on the positive side. Despite having a very low energy-to-weight ratio and a low energy-to-volume ratio, a lead-acid battery can supply high surge currents. This results in a relatively large power-to-weight ratio, which makes them ideally suited for use in motor vehicles to provide high currents required by starter motors. Plus lead-acid batteries are relatively inexpensive.
As the main energy source in motive, stationary, automotive, industrial and current grid energy storage systems, sales of lead acid batteries are set to climb in passenger vehicles, electric vehicles and two-wheelers, notes a recent market study by Future Market Insights (FMI). The report predicts that the lead acid battery market should surpass US$116.60Bn by the end of 2030. Further, the study estimates that demand for lead acid batteries will be upheld by a transportation sector that is slated to grow 1.4x through 2029
While 2020 looks to be a modest market for lead-acid batteries, market vendors are pushing into the e-bikes markets. Further, thanks to high crank characteristics, AGM batteries are witnessing high demand growth in off-grid applications where charge rates are relatively lower and high autonomy is preferred. AGM stands for "Absorbent Glass Mat", which is a type of separator used in batteries. AGM batteries have a relatively small amount of acid, which is absorbed by the AGM separator. This allows the battery to be spill-proof and better suited for e-bikes and off-grid energy storage.
“Stationary energy storage has enormous near-term potential. Businesses such as battery manufacturers, grid operators are set to establish collaborative relationships with solar power developers and energy service companies”, says the FMI Analyst in its press release. For instance, Furakawa Battery Co Ltd has signed an agreement with I-WIND for the supply of batteries to be used in a wind power generation project.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will impact the lead-acid battery market in the near term. According to the FMI report, the end of first quarter of 2020 saw lead acid battery demand slowly climbing up as containment strategies in China started to take effect and lockdown restrictions were lifted. Relatedly, consumer demand for major automotive and industrial manufacturing has fallen due to the pandemic.The long term forecast for acid-lead batteries looks solid with reasonably strong growth predicted in the years ahead. Buyer sentiment will show reluctance towards new cars, however replacement batteries will keep up the demand.