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Battery substitution to impact on passenger cars - study

Thu, 05/22/2014 - 10:32 -- David Appleyard
EUROBAT study on lead alternatives

There would be a significant impact on the overall performance and cost of vehicles if established battery applications were to be replaced with alternative technologies, according to a new study published by European automotive and battery industry trade groups, including EUROBAT.

The study concludes that lead-based batteries will by necessity remain the most wide-spread energy storage system in automotive applications for the foreseeable future. Their low cost and unparalleled ability to start the engine at cold temperatures sets them apart in conventional and basic micro-hybrid vehicles, and as auxiliary batteries in all other automotive applications. With regard to overall storage capability and potential for further fuel efficiency improvements, the demand for larger battery systems based on lithium, nickel and sodium will continue to grow through the increased market penetration of vehicles with higher levels of hybridisation and electrification.

In any automotive application, regulatory decisions to phase out established battery technologies would impact negatively on overall vehicle performance and cost. The study reaches this conclusion through a detailed analysis of the technical requirements placed on the battery in three different classes of conventional, hybrid and electric vehicles. It also finds that substitution has an effect on targets for fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions.

Commenting on the findings, EUROBAT's chairman, Johann-Friedrich Dempwolff, said: "Currently all battery technologies have specific performance profiles that serve a well-defined purpose in automotive applications and continue to have an irreplaceable role in reducing CO2 emissions from transport".

"In particular, this report demonstrates the necessity of maintaining the exemption for lead-based batteries within the EU End of Life Vehicle Directive's wider ban on lead in light-duty vehicles. The EU's legislative and regulatory framework should guarantee a fair and technology-neutral competition between battery technologies."

The study, A Review of Battery Technologies for Automotive Applications, also makes clear that a transition towards other battery types would have significant ramifications for development times and would be expensive to implement effectively. In order to optimise fuel efficiency improvements in each vehicle type, automobile manufacturers need the flexibility to choose the most appropriate batteries from a technical and economic perspective, the report argues.

 In a related development, EUROBAT's Executive Director Alfons Westgeest underlined the importance of battery energy storage in residential and commercial grid systems to grow renewable energy in a keynote address to 400 participants at the recent E+Storage Workshop in Italy.

Luigi Mazzocchi, of RSE SpA, and chairman of the session supported this sentiment with the assurance that: "No doubt, electricity storage is necessary. Its importance will gradually increase in the forthcoming years, as stochastic renewable energy production will occupy an increasing share of power production." He concluded with: "Battery storage technology will become an essential player of the electrical system within some years. The Italian industry can play an important role."