The winner of this year’s International Lead Award used the platform to urge the lead battery industry to ‘pull together’ to solve problems and combat the threat of lithium-ion.
Frank Fleming was presented the award for his ‘major contribution and work in the lead-acid battery industry’ by Don Karner during the opening session of the bi-annual Asian Battery Conference (ABC) event in Bali, Indonesia.
The award by the International Lead Association (ILA) is presented each year at either the ABC or European Lead Battery Conference.
Fleming is a co-founder of NorthStar Battery, where he served as chief technical officer for 16 years before being appointed to its senior technical adviser role.
He is a member of the Consortium for Battery Innovation where he is responsible for the technical management of the research being undertaken at the US government’s Argonne National Laboratory.
Fleming told BEST Battery Briefing on the side-lines of 18ABC that he was ‘very honoured’ and grateful to win the award.
“I’m a great believer that we, as an industry, should be pulling together our research, which is what ALABC was about. If there is a problem, all the industry should be pulling together to solve it,” he said.
“In my opinion there is a bigger challenge with lithium-ion and we have to get together as an industry, not necessarily to fight off lithium-ion, but look at how we can remain relevant in an industry where the need for batteries is bigger than ever, especially as the environmental issue grows.
“I see so many opportunities for the lead battery industry to grow in the energy storage sector, especially in behind-the-meter applications, and we need to explain to those outside of the industry the benefits of lead.
“I see microgrids rather than grid-scale applications as the most important area in the future. Energy storage at the housing estate level and lead is perfect for that.
“If government legislation one day forces us to all drive electric vehicles, if that happens the grid isn’t capable of recharging all those cars, then lead makes perfect sense as a storage technology.”
He added: “I always felt these awards should be given to people who have written a lot of literature or published a lot of papers, but that is not necessarily true. It’s for people who have made outstanding contributions to the industry, and that made me feel a lot better about accepting the award,” he said.
“I feel my contribution is getting along with everybody, and whatever I’ve turned my attention to I’ve always tried my best to solve the problem whether it’s engineering or economic.”
Dr Fleming’s career in the lead battery industry began as a sandwich-year student when he joined the UK-based battery manufacturer Chloride Technical.
He has also served as technical director of Hawker Energy Products before becoming the company’s global director for Standby Development, overseeing the company’s products throughout Europe and the United States.
He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in applied chemistry, and his Ph.D was on solid-state proton conduction. He has authored several technical papers.
Last year’s winner was award posthumously to David Boden, the British-born research electrochemist who died in 2018.
The previous award winner at 17ABC was the chief scientist of Chinese battery maker Narada Power, Dr Herbert Giess.