Wim De Vos, CEO of Campine, joins CBI's guest blog to share his thoughts about the importance of lead batteries and research to reach the EU's green goals.
We are currently in times where many raw materials are scarce and logistics from other parts of the globe are expensive. The only battery technology material that gives Europe security is lead.
When discussing Europe’s energy transition goals - involving the electrification of vehicles and generating more energy from renewable solar and wind power - we cannot avoid talking about batteries. Demand for all types of batteries during the next decades is growing rapidly as we are using more and more electric devices, including electric vehicles (EVs), and increasing the level of energy storage for utilities and renewable projects.
Europe will need metals to produce all these different batteries, however, many of them are becoming scarce and more expensive to import, with the cost of container shipping from Asia to Europe increasing by 4x compared to 2020.
In the end, we will have to make sure that we have enough materials to fuel both battery production, and our path towards a greener society. So where do lead batteries fit in to providing the solution?
Lead remains the main battery technology for automotive applications, such as start-stop and micro-hybrid vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries are the primary batteries for EVs, increasing the demand for the metals needed to produce these, but lead continues to play a critical role as low-voltage EV batteries. When it comes to choosing the best technology to achieve the EU’s decarbonisation goals, there is a clear role for all battery technologies to play their part based on their strengths, such as weight, cost, and the performance of the battery.
Nevertheless, if we focus on sustainability and circular economy goals, lead is the only battery technology that is truly “circular”. A new lead battery in Europe is made using 80% recycled content, with nearly 100% of lead batteries collected and recycled at end-of-life. This circularity is far ahead of other battery technologies.
To really consider sustainability, we need to look at the complete supply chain.
The importance of research and innovation
To make sure that the clean energy transition is achieved, Europe should use as many lead batteries as possible, and increase investment in research and innovation for this technology.
The lead battery has been the mainstream technology for many years and for the past two decades a lot of things have changed for the industry, especially with the rise of alternative chemistries like lithium.
CBI has been an important driver for industry research and innovation, to continue the development and advancement of lead battery technology to meet the demands of the EU’s green transition and need for batteries, underpinned by a mature and circular industrial base.
Therefore, it’s extremely vital to invest money, time, people and “brains” into the work of CBI to develop advanced lead batteries that can compete in the evolving market, by being cost-effective, more efficient, more sustainable and, especially by contributing to the circular model.