from June 2011 ABT

meeting report

BCI 123rd Convention and Power Mart Trade Fair

Doral Golf Resort and Spa, Miami, FL USA

May 1 - May 4, 2011

This year’s convention of the Battery Council International was another example that we are in an industry that can fiercely compete for 362 days a year and then come together for three days to interact and share information. The event was very well supported with attendance the largest in 20 years with more than 560 attendees. This annual event supports the lead-acid battery industry offering papers directed at the industry’s SLI and industrial battery sales projections, regulatory issues and pricing projections for lead and sulfuric acid.

The BCI staff and committee chairs did their best to select another great venue and an even better convention program. The meeting was opened by the current BCI president, John D. Craig, who is the chairman, president, and CEO of EnerSys Inc. of Reading, Pennsylvania.

This year’s keynote speaker was Don Shula, former coach of the Miami Dolphins. Shula gave an inspiring speech entitled, “Everyone’s a Coach: You Can Inspire Anyone to be a Winner”. Don was introduced as having coached in the NFL for 33 years (26 with Miami and seven with Baltimore), won 340 games (of a total of 526), had the only undefeated season (1972) and was the winner of two Super Bowls (did not win in 1972). His speech was inspiring and we all gleaned something to take home for use in business and daily life. He used the acronym C.O.A.C.H. to get his lessons across, which is the focal point of his recent self-help book. His examples were memorable yet funny and we all enjoyed his presentation.

Another interesting keynote was given by John Moore, the marketing mastermind behind companies such as Starbuck’s and Wholefoods. He talked about turning a commodity into an experience that people are willing to pay for. He says that every brand has a story and that there is no such thing as a dull product category (lead-acid batteries?) only a dull brand! Brands should attempt to 1) improve a life, 2) right a wrong or 3) make something better. According to John, Southwest Airlines is a good example of righting a wrong. Obsess about your customers, not your competitors. If you treat your product like a commodity, you will treat your customers like commodities. Take care of your customers and exceed their expectations. Marketing has two audiences -- your customers and your employees. You must focus your efforts, which many times means saying no to some good ideas. He also stated that a business that never fails will never succeed.

Next on the stage was attorney David Weinberg of Wiley Rein LLP who began the more serious portion of the session. David presented his annual industry update in terms of the key regulatory and legislative issues that are affecting the industry. One of the most interesting facts that David presented was the five-year average of lead battery recycling. This number continues at 98% which is tracked and calculated by BCI. The calculation is rather sophisticated and takes into account all lead-acid batteries (not just starting batteries). The calculation is done by obtaining unit battery shipments from the battery manufacturers and the respective lead content of the different batteries. BCI then compares this data to the total amount of lead (tons) produced by the smelters. A running average is tabulated and shared with BCI member companies.

The annual Power Mart Trade Fair was also well subscribed with 43 manufacturers and industry suppliers displaying their products and services. The annual BCI Golf Tournament was held at Doral’s Great White Course with more than 100 players enjoying the beautiful Florida weather. The golf tournament was followed by a great reception held in the Doral Resort & Spa’s Legends Ballroom. As it is every year, the reception was generously sponsored by the BCI Suppliers Group.

The convention itself is a mixture of technical, marketing and legislation-related presentations. There are also the committee meetings that are open to all members of the BCI and deal with topics ranging from product information, materials, battery testing, product safety, chargers, data-books for battery users and other technical issues. The final morning of the convention featured the annual breakfast meeting of the “BCI Quarter Century Club.” This club boasts of having more than 300 members, 12 of which are also members of the “BCI One-Half Century Club.” The 124th BCI Convention & Power Mart Trade Fair is scheduled to be held at the Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 29 - May 2, 2012.

2010 Battery Shipment Review & Three-Year Forecast Report

By Mike Carr
Johnson Controls, Inc.

As usual, this presentation was full of facts and figures beginning with 2010 global light vehicle production at 65 million units with estimated growth to reach 92 million units by 2016. Most of this large amount of growth will take place in the Asia/Pacific market. In North America vehicle sales were up 1.4 million units (13.8%) in 2010 but this number is still slightly below the highs set in 2006. Battery sales during this same period were 119 million units with 68% of sales attributed to aftermarket sales. HEV’s sales are growing and the HEV market share is now ~2.5% of all vehicles sold.

Carr then went on to describe some interesting market research. In 2010 there were 240 million vehicles in operation in the US. The average age of these vehicles is 10.2 years, which is definitely good for aftermarket battery sales. Most consumers are keeping their vehicles longer and 54% anticipate keeping their vehicles 10+ years. He presented some new survey data that indicated that 34% of drivers proactively anticipate battery failure and replace their battery early while 46% of drivers wait for the battery to fail and then replace it and 58% of drivers use DIFM (do it for me) stores to replace their batteries.

Industrial Battery Three-Year Forecast Report

By Robert Cullen
Hollingsworth & Vose Company

Bob began by stating that as far as the Industrial battery industry is concerned, the economy began to recover during the 4th quarter 2009 and the recovery continues. In 2010, industrial battery sales in North America grew 17% with sales of both stationary and motive power up $215 million. It should be noted that only 7% of this growth was due to the number of units sold and the bulk of the growth was due to lead pricing. Total industrial battery sales reached $1.5 billion in 2010.

The largest component of the industrial battery market in North America is stationary batteries. This portion of the market is driven by UPS and telecom battery sales. In 2010 this portion of the industrial battery market was up $105 million (15%) and totaled $825 million. In 2010 telecom accounted for sales of $371 million and UPS with $291 million. Together telecom and UPS account for 82% of the stationary market segment. Other key segments in this large lead-acid battery market are control and switchgear, photovoltaic and rail signal.

During the year motive power battery sales totaled $677 million which is up $110 million (19%) from 2009. Forklift batteries make up 94% of this market category while mining vehicles (3%) and railroad/locomotive (3%) complete the segment. Bob reported that as the economy improves so does the retail/warehousing industry, which in turn increases the demand for forklift trucks. In 2010 orders for forklifts were up significantly by 17% and in some categories were up as much as 27%. Lead times for forklift trucks are 7-12 weeks.

Bob discussed the future of the industrial battery market and how the stationary battery market is expecting steady growth due to the viral growth of cell phones, 4G wireless and mobile banking. Smart phone usage is expected to grow 200% by 2013. According to reports, Verizon and AT&T are targeting Visa, Master Card with smart phones for the credit card market. Your cell phone company might soon be your bank!

ALABC Panel Presentation: Optimized Grids for Advanced Lead-Acid Batteries

Moderator: Dr. Patrick Moseley
President, ALABC, Durham, NC USA

Dr. Moseley opened the panel discussion by describing work that has been done to design grids for high-rate partial state of charge operation. In this application the maximum discharge rate is typically 15C (15X the one-hour discharge rate) while the maximum charge rate can vary from 10 to 25C! Grids having a single lug (tab) tend to show voltage drops that radiate from the lug in various degrees. Modeling has shown that double lugs (one each at the top and the bottom of the grid) would be advantageous. Testing of the dual tab RHOLAB cell design extended HRPSOC performance by much more than 10X. Grid design is obviously a key part of product performance in this application. After a very good technical introduction of the subject, Dr. Moseley introduced the speakers and the presentations began on grid design.

Superior Batteries by Electro-formed Composite Grids

By Dr. Hans Warlimont
Consultant, OTA GmbH, Freigericht, Germany

Dr. Warlimont presented a new technology for the manufacturing of lead battery grids. Rather than casting, stamping, rolling or punching, these composite grids are electro-formed. The process begins by electro-forming a lead grid core onto a textured stainless steel roll. Once the grid core is formed, it is peeled from the electro-forming roll and placed into electro-plating cells where additional layers of lead and even copper are added. In his cross-sectional photos, the different plating layers can be seen. Each layer can be used to “fine-tune” the grid and add specific properties such as improved conductivity, corrosion resistance and strength. Batteries have been built, and cycling tests verify improved behavior. Dr. Warlimont concluded by stating that the cost of his process is comparable to present grid production processes.

Evaluation of Carbon Honeycomb Grids for Positive and Negative Lead-Acid Battery Plates

By Dr. Angel Kirchev
NEA, Project Manager, Storage Systems, Laboratory for Storage of Electricity - French National Institute for Solar Energy (DEA-INES), Le Bourget du Lac, France

Dr. Kirchev described a process for producing battery grids from cellulosic paper, resins, tar and pitch. The honeycomb structure affords a high surface-to-volume ratio, uniform order for easier pasting and low-cost production technology. These grids have been evaluated for “proof of concept” in VRLA batteries. Grids post-plated with Pb-2%Sn alloy demonstrated 180 deep cycles with a failure mode reported as softening of the PAM. Lead plating of the negative grids was determined to be mandatory for good paste contact. Charge control of the positive plate has been used to avoid detrimental corrosion.

Bipolar Construction: The Ultimate Grid Design

By Dr. Andrew Loyns
chief technology officer, Atraverda Limited, Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent, U.K.

Dr. Loyns introduced the benefits of the Atraverda Ebonex® bipolar battery technology. In the manufacturing arena these benefits are: 1) 50% of grid/COS lead eliminated, 2) less sensitivity to lead pricing, 3) reduced lead exposure for employees, 4) reduced energy requirements, 5) reduced Capex, 6) recyclability and 7) lead-acid chemistry. From the customers’ perspective the benefits are also 1) high energy density, 2) high voltage batteries, 3) one SKU and 4) parallel connectivity. The Atraverda prototypes also feature non-glued battery assembly and discharge capacities of 11Ah (C/2) and 15Ah (C/20). Capacity and cycle life testing is ongoing and their batteries have passed vibration and shock testing per BS EN 61056-1:2003. The 48-Volt Atraverda bipolar battery currently demonstrates energy densities of 45Wh/Kg and 100Wh/L. Projected energy density values for their higher voltage batteries are 65-70Wh/Kg and 140-150Wh/L.

The Impact of Grid Structure on Lead-Acid Battery Performance

By Dr. John N. Harb
Associate Dean and Professor of Chemical Engineering, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, USA

Dr. Harb illustrated his modeling and simulation studies showing the impact of grid design on electrode performance. He explained how the grid not only controls current distribution in the electrode but impacts the battery capacity, power, heat generation and life. Presenting graphical analysis of a multi-tabbed grid of a spiral-wound battery, Dr. Harb began by comparing electrode performance at the 10C discharge rate. His color depiction of the I2R (Joule) heating in the solid phase was most revealing as the top and the bottom of the cell were operating at dramatically different temperatures. The last portion of his presentation dealt with the modeling and simulation of prismatic grid designs in a collaborative effort with East Penn Manufacturing. As seen with his spiral-wound grid study, Joule heating could be predicted and in this case it was verified in experimental work done at EPM. It was obvious that his simulations were accurate.

Low Aspect Ratio Grids for Power and Thermal Management in HEV Applications

By Dr. George Brilmyer
HighWater Innovations, Johnson City, TN, USA

In the final panel presentation of the morning, Dr. George Brilmyer of HighWater Innovations LLC, introduced a new low aspect ratio spiral-wound VRLA cell design. This cell is designed specifically to be used for high power battery packs in HEVs. The cell, that resembles a doughnut, features a short, low resistance grid design and an open central core for cooling. This single cell building block offers the manufacturer the ability to test and match cells while giving the pack designer options for shape and fitment. The cells interconnect to form compact high-voltage stacks that act like a chimney. Multiple stacks are arranged side-by-side and placed into a cooling tunnel. The unique feature of this design is that with the end cells insulated, all cells in the battery are treated equally in terms of thermal management. Dr. Brilmyer claims that battery life can be maximized by having not only low, but very uniform, cell temperatures. One of the proposed HEV batteries is a 200V x 1.3Kwh unit with dimensions of 15” x 29” x 3” and a weight of 95 pounds.

Centrifugal

Paul White and Dwyn von Bereghy of Centrifugal Casting Co. LLC.

JBI

Joe & Deb Badger of JBI with Rob Brile of EnerSys

Inbatec

Inbatec - Armin Gaspers, Freidrich Woeffler and Christian Papmahl

HV_Technologies

Hollingsworth & Vose - Timothy Connolly, Tony Ferreira (from Acumulatores Moura) and Nicolas Clement

TBS

TBS Engineering - David Longney

Farmer

Farmer Mold & Machine Works - Jim Gilmour

Midtronics

Midtronics - John Philbrook

Pacer

Pacer Group - Steve O’Dea