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 Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo 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 Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo 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 Electric & Hybrid Technology Expo Europe here

Johnson Controls were sponsors of Electric & Hybrid Technology Expo Europe 2018.

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