‘Enormous potential’ for lead battery market growth across Asia
By Huw Roberts, Director, CHR Metals Limited
The lead battery market in Asia is ripe for growth and innovation as the world seeks to decarbonise.
Huw Roberts, Director at CHR Metals has dismissed claims that China’s new standard for e-bikes, introduced in April 2019, would result in the rapid loss of this market for lead batteries. Roberts confirmed that lead batteries still have a significant role in powering e-mopeds and e-motorbikes in China. Both lithium and lead battery chemistries will play a major role in e-mobility in China and more broadly, Asia, in years to come.
Speaking at the ILA’s 21st International Lead Conference in Madrid in 2019 (In all the EV hype – don’t forget the e-bike), Huw Roberts made a case for the continued widespread use of lead batteries in Chinese e-bikes. This was despite a new standard for e-bikes introduced in April 2019 which limited the total weight of e-bikes to only 55kg, including the battery. New innovations in lead battery design, as well as formal standards being introduced for larger e-mopeds and e-motorbikes, as anticipated by CHR Metals (CHR), has meant that lead batteries continue to command a large share of the overall e-bike market in China.
An informal survey conducted by CHR in the streets of in Xi’an earlier this year suggested that while 55% of sales are now of the new, smaller e-bikes, more than 50% were still being fitted with lead batteries.
CHR estimates that the e-bike market in China (new-style e-bikes, e-mopeds and e-motorbikes) consumes a million tonnes of lead per year while lead batteries used in e-trikes create demand for a further 1.3 million tonnes a year. There are currently 180 million two-wheel e-bikes on the road in China. While lithium batteries will make in-roads in future, a large market for lead batteries remains especially in the e-moped and e-motorbike sectors. There is still a significant role for lead to be used in these bikes due to their unrivalled safety and cost advantages compared to lithium batteries. Research and innovation in lead batteries will continue to deliver increased performance and capacity.
Across Asia there is enormous potential for electrifying fleets of two and three-wheel bikes which provide essential transport services within cities. There are at least 500 million two and three-wheel motorbikes and rickshaws in Asia outside China, the vast majority of which are currently petrol-powered. This market is ripe for electrification both to reduce CO2 emissions and to improve urban air pollution. Should cities in Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Thailand promote e-mobility then there is huge potential for two and three-wheel lead battery powered vehicles.
It is essential that we see lead batteries’ expansion in these markets. Critically, government regulation and enforcement need to make sure that these batteries are recycled and recycled in an appropriate manner. The International Lead Association emphasises that lead needs to be recycled safely and efficiently.
In conclusion, the rapid demise of lead battery powered e-bikes in China anticipated by some following the introduction of a new standard in April 2019 has not occurred. The lead battery market is ripe for growth and innovation as Asia seeks to decarbonise.
Read more on how lead batteries keep electric vehicles safe.