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European automotive and automotive battery industries call for extension of the exemption of lead-based batteries from the EU ELV Directive

The EU must continue to allow the use of lead-based batteries in vehicles as they are essential for the needs of future generations of European cars, according to the automotive and automotive battery industries in Europe. Lead battery and car manufacturers have requested that the current exemption for lead-based batteries within the ELV Directive’s wider ban on lead in light-duty vehicles is maintained for at least another eight years.

The comments are part of the formal submission made by the industry group to EU regulators who concluded the public consultation phase of the review of the End of Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive this week. Following the consultation the Commission is expected to release its opinion in the first half of 2015.

The recommendation by EUROBAT, the European, Japanese and Korean car industry associations (ACEA – JAMA – KAMA) and the International Lead Association (ILA), is backed by a series of studies on the technical benefits of lead-based batteries and their sustainability, which includes their 99% recycling rate in Europe and the general availability of the natural resources used to make up the battery.

Part of the evidence submitted to the EU Commission is a study—A Review of Battery Technologies for Automotive Applications—which found that there are at present no alternatives, either technically or economically, to lead-based batteries for the SLI (Starting – Lighting – Ignition) function in vehicles. This means lead-based batteries are essential in virtually all conventional ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles, hybrid vehicles (mild, micro and Plug-in-HEV, PHEV) and full electric vehicles.

All hybrid, plug-in hybrid and full electric vehicles equipped with high-voltage, advanced rechargeable battery systems also utilize a second electrical system on 12V level for controls, comfort features, redundancy and safety features. This electrical system is in all cases supplied by a 12V lead-based battery, the groups said.

The study also concludes that lead-based batteries will remain the only viable mass market energy storage system in automotive applications for the foreseeable future. Their low cost and unparalleled ability to start a car engine at cold temperatures sets them apart in conventional and basic micro-hybrid vehicles, and as auxiliary batteries in all other automotive applications.

Three additional studies also highlight the positive sustainability and environmental credentials of lead-based batteries that are an excellent example of the EU circular economy in action. The studies show:

  • At the end-of-life, lead-based batteries have a 99% collection and recycling rate in a closed loop system, making lead-based batteries the most recycled consumer products in the EU.

  • Using lead batteries in start-stop or micro-hybrid systems can result in emission savings of between 700-1600 kg CO2 equivalent over a vehicle’s lifetime.

  • The high recycling rate means that the environmental impacts of lead-based batteries, compared to the overall environmental impact of a vehicle, is negligible.

  • There are no current or future resource availability issues with metals used in lead-based batteries.

The review. A Review of Battery Technologies for Automotive Applications assessed in depth the performance profiles of the automobile battery technologies currently in use:

  1. Conventional vehicles, including start-stop and basic micro-hybrid vehicles are equipped with a 12V lead-based battery, which is required to start the engine and supply the complete electrical system, and can also be expected to provide start-stop functionality, as well as the entry class of braking recuperation and passive boosting.

    Due to their excellent cold-cranking ability, durability and low cost, 12V lead-based batteries remain the only battery technology tested for the mass market that satisfies the technical requirements for these vehicles. This is expected to be the situation for the foreseeable future.

  2. Hybrid vehicles, including advanced micro-hybrid, mild-hybrid and full-hybrid vehicles rely on the battery to play a more active role, with the energy stored from braking used to boost the vehicle’s acceleration. In full-hybrid vehicles, the stored energy is also used for a certain range of electric driving.

    Several battery technologies are able to provide these functions in different combinations, with nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries coping best as requirements increase, due to their fast recharge, good discharge performance and life endurance. At high voltages, lead-based batteries are so far limited by their more modest recharge and discharge power and capacity turnover.

  3. In plug-in hybrid and full electric vehicles, high voltage battery systems (up to 100 kWh for commercial vehicles) are installed to provide significant levels of electric propulsion.

    Lithium-ion battery systems remain the only commercially available battery technology capable of meeting requirement for passenger cars according to EV driving range and time, due to their high energy density, low weight, good recharge capability and energy efficiency. Other battery technologies (nickel-metal hydride, lead-based etc.) cannot deliver the required level of performance for these applications at a competitive weight.

    For commercial applications, harsh environments and heavy duty vehicles, high-temperature sodium nickel chloride batteries are a competitive option.

EUROBAT, the Association of European Automotive and Industrial Battery Manufacturers, acts as a unified voice in promoting the interests of the European automotive, industrial and special battery industries of all battery chemistries. Its more than 40 members represent more than 90% of the automotive and industrial battery industry in Europe.



The reduced mass of 12V Lithium Ion could save more than lead. If 12V Lithium Ion became mass market the cost would be reasonable since less overcapacity is needed. The question is how much over sizing is needed for 12V Lithium Ion in cold weather.


A rarely discussed problem concerns the fact that most of the superior chemistries are said to have unacceptable self-discharge rates when used in a 12 volt standalone application.

There is also the cost factor of Li-ion batteries ~$240/Kwh whereas the average 0.9Kwh Pb-Acid goes for around $100.


T2, are you saying that a 12V Li-ion battery will have a self-discharge rate greater than that of lead-acid? Could you please provide any references?


When lead acid battery production started over a century ago, it was in its diapers, where - more or less - it can still be found today. There are several battery chemistries that are more advanced than lead acid; if they were scaled up to true mass production like lead acid, they would also be price compatible.
Beyond the battery chemistry, it'd be recommendable to increase the board voltage to 48 to 60V. Also a century ago, the accompanying technology was deem-able for 6 / 12V board voltage. The higher voltage can be easily handled nowadays with many advantages. Apparently, it is difficult for car manufacturers to depart from their stone age mentality.


The biggest hiccup for the manufacturers is that all the sensors and switches, generators and convenience/starting motors on the car run at 4.5v- ~15v. The lead acid battery is pretty robust, it can last 8years and likes to be kept near full charge.

Its a very easy battery to maintain and use. It easily can survive extreme events and conditions ex. Cold starts, hot operation and so on. It just works for the automotive world without a lot of supporting technology.

If they move to a higher voltage system in the passenger space/ sensors then they could probably get away with other chemistries / do away with lead easier.

But as I stated the chemistry is well suited to the automotive world, it's easily recycled, it likes being fully charged and doesn't need really advanced charging systems, it works in extreme temperatures and its established. Manufacturers care about life time costs of operation, and end of vehicle life scenario's like recycling,and not to mention its not wise to move forward with any other technology unless the vast majority of the market agrees on the way forward away from lead acid.
Its hard to make such a drastic change. Think of how the retail market would react, or just how to make the batteries available to the consumers. If every manufacturer chose a different solution to the lead acid battery, none would be affordable.

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