Efficient Technology

Environmental Benefits

Lead batteries are the environmental success story of our time. More than 99% of all battery lead is recycled. Compared to 55% of aluminum soft drink and beer cans, 45% of newspapers, 26% of glass bottles and 26% of tires, lead batteries top the list of the most highly recycled consumer product.

The lead battery gains its environmental edge from its closed-loop life cycle. The typical new lead battery contains 60-80% recycled lead and plastic. When a spent battery is collected, it is sent to a permitted recycler where, under strict environmental regulations, the lead and plastic are reclaimed and sent to a new battery manufacturer. The recycling cycle goes on indefinitely. That means the lead and plastic in the lead battery in your car, truck, boat or motorcycle have sbeen - and will continue to be -recycled many, many times. This makes lead battery disposal extremely successful from both environmental and cost perspectives.

Hybrid Electric Vehicle

Next Generation Lead Technology

Dramatic improvements in the performance of lead batteries have come about not through the use of rare or expensive materials, but through the creative use of the raw materials that lead manufacturers have been using for decades.

Carbon + Supercapacitor = Performance Breakthrough

For years, scientists have known that the accumulation of lead sulfate can prevent lead batteries from achieving the sustained level of high-rate partial state-of-charge (HRPSoc) operation required for heavy duty performance in hybrid electric vehicles and other energy storage applications.

This problem would occur whenever a lead battery state- of-charge remained significantly below 100% for a sustained period. Conversely, whenever the battery’s state-of-charge would rise much about 70%, it could not accept a recharge from either a regenerative braking system or a charge from the engine itself.

One solution has been to insert a super-capacitor into the battery to act as a buffer and manage the high-rate charge/discharge process, so the unit can operate successfully within a state-of-charge window below 70%.

In such design, called UltraBattery, a super capacitor carbon electrode is combined with the lead battery’s negative plate to better regulate the flow (charge and discharge) of energy, thereby extending the power of life of the battery itself. The Advanced Lead Battery Consortium (ALABC) tested the UltraBattery in a Honda Insight HEV. The vehicle easily surpassed the 100,000 durability test without any conditioning or equalization treatment.

There are novel lead battery designs which replace the negative electrode entirely to for an asymmetric super capacitor, or that use carbon as an electrode substrate. Among other benefits, the modifications can dramatically reduce the weight of the battery.

Commercialization of Bipolar Technology

As the lead industry continues its breakthrough work on incorporating carbon and super capacitors in batteries to improve their performance, significant progress also is being made in another key area: the commercialization of bipolar technology. Bipolar technology can help produce batteries that will achieve the goals of more power and a smaller footprint, both very important in making hybrid electric vehicles more affordable for consumers. The majority of batteries are made with conventional ‘monopolar’ technology, which uses two plates per cell. It then connects those cells in a series of metallic connectors outside of the cells or through a wall. While bipolar and monopolar designs share the same lead chemistry, they differ in that bipolar battery cells are stacked so that the negative plate of one cell becomes the positive plate of the next. The cells are separated from each other by the bipolar plate, which allows each cell to operate in isolation from its neighbor. This construction reduces the power loss that is normally caused by the internal resistance of the cells. At each end of the stack, single plates act as the final anode and cathode. This construction leads to reduced weight since there are fewer plates and bus bars are not needed to join cells together. The net result is a battery design with higher power and less weight than conventional monopolar lead batteries.

Lead + Carbon: Enabling Micro Hybrids for the Masses

New lead battery technology has sharply reduced the accumulation of lead sulfate deposits that previously inhibited the performance of lead batteries in HEV or other HRPSoC applications. This benefit has extended the life of traditional lead batteries three-fold, enabling large scale deployment of micro and medium hybrids with significant fuel economy and emissions savings at very low cost.

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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.