Aqua Metals acquired Ebonex to help create the future advanced lead acid battery

Part of the reason we co-founded AquaMetals was from a deep-seated belief that we haven’t seen the best of lead acid batteries (LABs) yet and that there could be a market for advanced materials, equipment and processes to support a new wave of LABs.

Most people assume that after more than 100 years, lead acid batteries are at the end of their development. We take the view that the very first lead acid batteries were so good at their job—starting vehicle engines—that extensive R&D to fundamentally improve them wasn’t needed. If you look at a modern starter battery, it’s really not a whole lot different from one from 100 years ago. The automotive industry’s commoditization of lead acid batteries has reduced the incentive for LAB companies to innovate at a fundamental level. So basically, we have seen a 100-years of mostly incremental improvements. In automotive starter batteries, factors such as material utilization, charge acceptance rates and cycle life have seen modest improvements. We believe that this has left a wealth of untapped potential in lead acid chemistry.

We believe that this is about to change. The next generation of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles have vastly different electrical needs. We are already seeing stop/start (micro-hybrid), electric power steering, electric power brakes and other innovations—all of which are rapidly changing the electrical needs of ICE powered vehicles. Semi-autonomous, self-driving, regenerative braking and compound turbochargers are all entering the market and will add to the changing electrical needs.

In response, starting in Europe, the automotive industry is moving from 12V systems to 48V, which is forcing the development of a new generation of automotive batteries. This new generation will need to deliver a vastly different duty cycle and extended cycle life—cost effectively and in a product that can be recycled.

This change from commodity to feature driven demand has started a new wave of research within the lead acid battery industry. In turn, this is renewing interest in achieving higher levels of material utilization, higher levels of charge acceptance and much higher cycle life at partial state of charge. This has renewed interest in nano-structured active materials, low cost corrosion resistant materials, high performance additives for the active material and alternative battery architectures such as the “bipolar” configuration—which is well suited to a 48V application.

Our mission is to be at the forefront of LAB development supplying advanced materials, methods and equipment to our LAB manufacturing customers. Acquiring Ebonex IPR will allow us both to advance our own nano-structured lead and leverage synergies both with Ebonex materials and its experience in bipolar lead acid batteries. Together, we believe that we have the potential to significantly advance the performance and cycle life of lead acid battery chemistry, in an easily recycled product.

Importantly, lead acid batteries remain as the only battery technology which has a proven and economically sustainable 100% recycle rate. As such they are the leader in the circular economy—where products can be built, used and recycled instead of ending up in the environment or landfill.