If there was a tagline for the 15th Asian Battery Conference (ABC15) in Singapore, it could only have been 'Lead Ain't Dead'. Yes, it's a tired cliche but the lead-acid battery industry is feeling just a little bit touchy these days.
ABC15 is, of course, very much a lead-acid battery show but it didn’t stop many speakers disparaging lithium-ion by highlighting its shortcomings compared to lead-acid, be it higher cost, thermal runaway issues or the perceived problems of recycling.
The relationship between lead-acid and lithium-ion is that of between a slightly aging actress and young starlet. The younger woman gets most of the attention – Electric vehicles! iPhones! Laptops! Power tools! – and the aging beauty looks on with not a little envy and bitterness.
“What has she got that I haven’t?,” she thinks. “I’ve got efficiency. Longevity. Cost-effectiveness. Low discharge. And I don’t suffer from thermal runaway like her.”
The ‘aging beauty’ is right, of course. She has a lot going for her and she probably always will do. While she may have a few more wrinkles than the younger woman she is, after all, beautiful. And she's still a great actress.
What’s more, carbon additives – the Botox of lead-acid batteries - are prolonging her beauty. ABC15 was at its best when exploring the latest methods to improve cycling rates and dynamic charge acceptance with carbon.
But lithium-ion can’t be ignored. Lead-acid cells will never appear in an iPad or pure electric vehicles and so to pretend it’s the answer for everything or lithium-ion won’t amount to a hill of beans is wrong-headed. Both are beautiful in their own ways.
Read the full ABC15 show report in the Autumn 2013 edition of Batteries & Energy Storage Technology Magazine, published in October.