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Essential to Our Future

Recyclable and Efficient

Meeting the growing global demand for energy requires a mixture of efficient energy storage technologies. Modern lead batteries are an essential part of that mixture, by providing sustainable energy storage for vital industries such as transportation, logistics, renewable energy and communications infrastructure. According to the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2014 Fact Sheet and BCI’s National Recycling Rate Study, 99% of all lead batteries are recycled, making them the most recycled good in the U.S.



Essential Energy Everyday exists to increase awareness of the critical importance of lead batteries to power our daily lives. Technological advances in lead batteries continue to increase their life cycle, storage capacity and overall performance, and this in turn, allows us to benefit from the comforts of modern life.

In transportation, a billion vehicles worldwide use lead batteries to start their engines and power on-board electronics. All fuel-efficient hybrid and fully electric vehicles also require advanced lead batteries in conjunction with other battery technologies. Collectively, the new generation of start-stop vehicles that use an advanced lead battery can provide significant fuel savings.

Within the energy sector, lead batteries store renewable energy generated by cleaner, greener sources like wind and solar. These industrial lead batteries are the world’s most scalable, economic way to load the grid and reliably supply emergency back-up power during outages. This ensures critical medical, data and security services continue to operate.

Many of our communication systems, like cell phone and internet services, would be severely affected without lead batteries. They safeguard most of the world’s fixed and mobile phone networks and IT infrastructure, delivering around-the-clock emergency power.

Lead batteries are the most commonly used rechargeable batteries.

The reliability of the lead battery has made it the most commonly used rechargeable battery technology for the widest range of applications.

Their reliability holds true in a wide range of applications that require variable rates and depths of discharge, wide temperature ranges, partial state of charge conditions, high charge rates and many other fluctuating conditions. Recent innovations in raw materials, battery designs and manufacturing processes continue to demonstrate the superior reliability of lead battery technology.

Put simply, the dynamic benefits and sustainability of lead batteries make them the smart choice for solving the energy storage needs of today and the emerging technology needs of tomorrow. 

Case Studies 

Here are a few examples of how lead battery technology systems enable renewable energy systems around the globe. 

Springfield, MO, Delivers 35 Percent Renewable Energy
City Utilities of Springfield installed a lead battery energy storage system that will allow renewable energy to charge the batteries during off-peak times and discharge at peak demand. Learn more.

Meeting Minnesota Requirements
Minnesota’s renewable energy standards are among the nation’s strongest, requiring utilities to provide 25 percent of their electrical generation from renewable sources such as wind, hydrogen and solar power by the year 2025. Learn more.

Powering Alcatraz Island’s Tourism
Alcatraz has always been cut off from the mainland, with no power lines. Today, its tourism business benefits from solar panels connected to a battery bank and power inverters that help power the island instead of relying solely on diesel generators. Learn more.

View more case studies here.

Economic Benefits

Creating Jobs

The U.S. lead battery industry enables more than 95,000 jobs for American workers and contributed more than $28 billion in total economic output to the national economy in 2016. 

The study, Economic Contribution of the U.S. Lead Battery Industry, prepared by the Economic Development Research Group demonstrates the positive economic impact lead battery manufacturers and recyclers provide to thousands of American workers and their communities. Employees of the lead battery industry cumulatively earn $6 billion annually, with average salaries among mining and recycling employees reaching $83,606, while manufacturing employees see similarly high salaries of $62,343 ---      providing livable wages and access to the middle class for workers regardless of their education level.

Ensuring Safety

Responsible Neighbors 

The lead battery industry follows strict regulations in the manufacturing, shipping and recycling of lead batteries. Innovative recycling facilities have been developed to recycle lead battery components, and industry-supported regulation ensures that these products are returned to appropriate locations for reuse.

Newer battery technologies have a more difficult time achieving the recycling advances and developing reclamation processes comparable to those established by the lead battery industry. The innovative processes for recycling lead batteries and the facilities that support them have progressively advanced over the years.

Along with innovative recycling practices, shipping of both flooded and sealed lead batteries has been managed safely and efficiently during the long history of lead battery use. Shippers of non-spillable lead batteries are provided exceptions to regulations when proper testing and marking requirements are met, making shipping even more efficient yet just as safe. Collection, transportation and handling of spent lead batteries are well defined and regulated by the U.S. government and by most states, often following the model legislation provided by BCI.

Charging and discharging of lead batteries at rates from a few milliamps to many thousands of amps is performed safely on a daily basis. They operate safely and reliably at widely ranging ambient temperatures and in every geographical location, from hot desert conditions to cold arctic environments. Sealed VRLA battery designs have made the use of lead battery technology even safer. With these non-spillable designs, the chances of acid leaking on to the user or the vehicle are minimal. Also, in the unfortunate event of a car accident, no acid will spill out if the battery is cracked or punctured. The lead battery chemistry is abuse tolerant, versatile, and a safe and reliable battery technology.

View the video below to learn more about the industry's commitment to protect the environment, contribute to the local economy and volunteer for local charity initiatives.

Alternative Battery Chemistries

Battery Chemistries

When the French scientist, Gaston Plante, invented the lead battery in 1859, he could not have envisioned the critical role his creation would play today in transportation, communication, electric utilities and as emergency backup systems. Without them, 21st century life would not be possible. 

The development of more and more battery-powered devices and applications has fueled demand for new and different battery chemistries. Researchers have been looking for a chemistry that is powerful, long-lived, safe, inexpensive, lightweight and recyclable.

Following is a brief summary of lead and alternate battery chemistries and their advantages and disadvantages.

Lead

Advantages: This chemistry has been proven over more than 140 years. Batteries of all shapes and sizes, available in sealed and maintenance-free products, are mass-produced today. In their price range, lead batteries provide the best value for power and energy per kilowatt-hour, have the longest life cycle and a large environmental advantage in that they are recycled at an extraordinarily high rate. (97% of the lead is recycled and reused in new batteries.) No other chemistry can touch the infrastructure that exists for collecting, transporting and recycling lead batteries.

Disadvantages: Lead is heavier compared to some alternative elements used in other technologies; however, certain efficiencies in current conductors and other advances continue to improve on the power density of a lead battery's design.

Lithium-ion 

Advantages: It has a high specific energy (the number of hours of operation for a given weight) making it a huge success for mobile applications such as phones and notebook computers.

Disadvantages: More expensive than lead. The cost differential is not as apparent with small batteries for phones and computers, and owners of these devices may not realize that they are paying much more per stored kilowatt hour than other chemistries. However, because automotive batteries are larger, the cost becomes more significant. In addition, currently there is no established system for recycling large lithium-ion batteries. Circuit protection is required to keep current and temperature within safe levels.

Lithium Iron Phosphate 

Addresses the safety concern of lithium-ion but at a lower energy density level. 

Nickel-cadmium 

Advantages: This chemistry is reliable, can operate in a range of temperatures, tolerates abuse well and performs well after long periods of storage.

Disadvantages: The metals in the battery are 25 times more expensive than lead. Nickel has been identified as a carcinogen. The self-discharge rate is high. No significant recycling capability exists.

Nickel-metal Hydride 

Advantages: It is reliable and lightweight and less prone to memory effect. In hybrid vehicles, these batteries have equal to 100,000 miles. This chemistry is reliable, can operate in a range of temperatures, tolerates abuse well and performs well after long periods of storage.

Disadvantages: The metals in the battery are 25 times more expensive than lead. Nickel has been identified as a carcinogen. The self-discharge rate is high. No significant recycling capability exists.

Note: The Advanced Lead Battery Consortium (ALABC) has helped to develop and test an advanced lead battery powered system that operates at the partial state of charge demands necessary for a hybrid vehicle and recently equipped a Honda Insight with this system. Advanced lead batteries will challenge the more expensive nickel metal hydride system in hybrid vehicles today.

Nickel-zinc

Advantages: This chemistry has good energy density, good operating temperature range and performs reasonably well after long periods of storage.

Disadvantages: It is expensive and its life cycle, while improved during the past few years, is still merely adequate. Nickel-metal hydride is often a stronger choice.

Sodium-sulfur 

Advantages: This chemistry is about as efficient as lead, but has three to four times more specific energy (the number of hours of operation for a given weight). Advantage only for stationary use.

Disadvantages: Twenty seven years of research has yielded only one commercial application – load leveling by electric utilities in Japan. Energy density per unit weight for mobile applications suffers due to material needed to keep system warm and protect it against crashes.

Aluminum-air

Advantages: This is a mechanically rechargeable primary battery system with a capacity equal to 15-20 cycles on a lead system (a cycle refers to a discharge and a charge).

Disadvantages: This chemistry cannot be cycled in the tradition sense. Its components must be replaced frequently; water must be added and sludge must be removed. When combined with the expense of reprocessing aluminum, the system is nowhere near commercialization.

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