Automotive lead battery demand is in a “state of flux”, but market analysts have warned: “Don’t be too hasty in writing off the humble lead car battery”.
Lead-acid is “increasingly under threat from new battery technologies”, according to metal and materials research consultancy Wood Mackenzie in its 2019 lead outlook.
But the world is yet to see the peak production of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, “and there are new developments in this old technology intended to keep it competitive and relevant for many more years”, the outlook said.
Peak global production of ICE vehicles is forecast to peak around the middle of the next decade at around 74 million units, when total vehicle production is forecast at 88 million units.
And the rollout of 5G networks will also support demand for lead batteries this year, according to the outlook.
Meanwhile, China remains the dominant player for both lead production and consumption, “and the slowing of the Chinese economy and fall in automotive production will not substantially change that”.
“As for the past two years, mine production is the key factor affecting the supply-demand balance. But, after four years of decline, mine output is forecast to reverse this trend with some meaningful growth. The unfamiliar problem for primary lead supply is now the prospect of a smelter bottleneck due to the potential for capacity outages both in China and the rest of world.”
For secondary lead production, smelter consolidation in China will help maintain overall output growth. But production from small-scale smelters is falling because of “stricter regulation and more frequent environmental and safety inspections”.
Technical editor of Batteries & Energy Storage Technology magazine, Dr Mike McDonagh, analysed the pros and cons of lead and lithium in the telecoms sector in his popular ‘Ask the Doctor’ feature— in the autumn 2018 edition of Batteries & Energy Storage Technology magazine.
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