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July 2020 Update on Industry News

Posted July 1, 2020


On May 27th, 2020, EnerSys announced the appointment of two new board members to replace two retiring board members. What caught my interest was the background of the two new members. One had extensive knowledge of wireless technology and 5G networks. The other was experienced in smart energy storage solutions and the electric grid. Probably a smart move by EnerSys. Los like they are doing business-wise as well. Their March 31, 2020 year ending wales were $3,000 million, up $280 million from the previous year. Their President and CEO, David Shaffer is a long time battery guy rising through the industry. I remember his contributions during the early days of Battcon.

Johnson Controls is a huge multifaceted company with its headquarters in Ireland. Last year it sold of it’s Power Solutions Unit which included its battery business, to an investment group, Brookfield Business Partners who renamed the new company Clarios. They probably used the same PR company that dreamt up Verizon, Xfinty and Quest. Anyhow, Clarios is the world’s biggest lead-acid battery company, making one in three of all automotive batteries sold worldwide. They also make batteries for energy storage systems. It is believed that they own about 40% of the largest USA battery retailer, Interstate Batteries. What do you mean that you never heard of Clatios? Well now you know. Maybe this should have been in the “Did you Know” column?

Will battery fires continue to plague the lithium-based battery sector? A June 8, 2020 Bloomberg news release revealed that a lithium battery shipment that had made its way to Canada from Sarasota, FL caught fire and destroyed the FedEx that was delivering the battery to its final destination. Just as well that it did not cause a fire on the plane from Florida. That would have been a more serious disaster but that has happened at least twice before. To quote Bloomberg, “Lithium-based batteries have been linked to two fatal air cargo crashes and scores of other fires on passenger planes. The safety board (National Transportation Safety Board) is separately investigating battery fires on electric vehicles.” Look for more stringent shipping regulations.

Talking about lithium, which seems to dominate the battery industry press and attracts a lot of investment money, some smart money is also looking at zinc-based battery technologies. However, they all seem to ignore the fact that lead is not dead! With lead prices down 7.6% since the beginning of the year and 28% year-over-year, with some analysts saying it is going to stay that way for at least a few years due to an abundant supply, lead-acid technologies are still the cheapest and most recyclable (98%) solution out there. Tried and true.

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