Lithium Batteries Replace Lead-acid Batteries?


Starting in 2020, the demand for electric bikes and motorcycles under the new NATIONAL standard will rewrite the industry structure. In the face of a total of more than 300 million vehicles, more than 90% of which are ultra standard electric vehicles, the old for new market demand, will greatly increase the annual sales of electric bicycles. Research institutes predict that sales of e-bikes are expected to exceed 50 million this year.

Based on good expectations for the electric vehicle market, many people believed that lithium batteries would soon replace lead-acid batteries when the new NATIONAL standard was released, but this is not the case.

It is well known that compared with lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries have the advantages of high energy density, long life, small size and light weight. However, lead-acid batteries are still dominant in the market. Why is that?

First, the cost advantage of lithium-ion batteries is not significant. Lithium-ion batteries typically cost 1.5 to 2.5 times as much as lead-acid batteries, but they don't last as long and have a high maintenance rate, according to many dealers who sell lithium-ion electric vehicles.

Second, the maintenance cycle is too long. Once the lithium battery is beyond repair, it takes about a week or more. The reason is that dealers are unable to repair or replace defective batteries inside lithium batteries. It must be returned to the manufacturer for disassembly and assembly. Many lithium-ion batteries are beyond repair.
Third, safety is a drawback compared to lead-acid batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries cannot withstand dropping and bumping during use. If the battery is punctured or severely impacted, the battery may burn or explode. Lithium batteries have high requirements for chargers. Once the charge current is too high, the lithium battery can damage the protective plate, causing combustion and even explosion.

Lithium-ion batteries from the big brands are safer, but also more expensive. Some small lithium-ion battery makers offer cheaper, but less safe, products.

Some people will say, don’t foreign countries like lithium batteries? That's good for export!

The large expansion of domestic and foreign market demand is undoubtedly a huge development opportunity for domestic electric bicycle enterprises. But for now, the e-bike industry also faces many challenges. Since 2018, the EU has made final anti-dumping and anti-subsidy rulings on China's e-bicycle exports and imposed extremely high tariffs on China's e-bicycle exports, which adversely affected domestic e-bicycle exports. Car companies want to avoid high tariffs and need to build factories in Europe for OEM production, which poses a huge challenge to their technological and financial strength.

Back in China, with the increasingly fierce competition in the e-bike industry, intelligent, lightweight, fast charging, long battery life, long life and high cost performance have become the necessary conditions for e-bikes. From this point of view, lithium batteries are indeed a trend. However, companies need to address these issues in a targeted way. If not, lithium-ion batteries are unlikely to replace lead-acid batteries on a large scale for at least the next five years.