Since the creation of Earth Day in 1970, more than 1 billion individuals have become mobilized to save our environment. That movement has since then caught on with large industries worldwide that have also moved to minimize waste and make strides toward a cleaner environment. One of the successes of this movement has been in the lead battery industry.
Industries such as golf cars, aerial lifts and cranes, floor cleaning machines, and others, that used to use fossil fuels or propane to power these pieces of equipment, have fully switched or offer equipment using battery power. Battery-powered equipment and vehicles in these industries, for example, provide a wide range of advantages in going “green” and protecting the environment.
Renewable And Sustainable Advantages
One of the most significant benefits of utilizing electric vehicles powered by lead-acid batteries is the recycling rate of used lead batteries. For lead batteries it is greater than 99 percent, resulting in a closed-loop and sustainable energy system. According to the Battery Council International (BCI), lead recyclers undergo some of the most restrictive emissions regulations. The process of recycling lead combined with tough emissions standards has produced new methods of recycling with reduced emissions that are far below EPA regulations. The BCI reports that contamination in the air has dropped by 99 percent since 1980.
Lead batteries are recycled in a process that breaks down the outer casings made of polypropylene. These are broken into small pieces that are washed, melted, and extruded into small pellets to produce new battery cases as well as other plastic products. The lead compounds and lead grids inside the battery are converted in a smelting furnace to form lead ingots that are used to make new battery components. The sulfuric acid in the battery’s electrolyte is neutralized and purified into water that meets EPA clean water and sodium sulfate, a compound commonly used in laundry detergent, glass, and other textiles.
An environmental study by the BCI showed that the lead battery industry helps power nearly 275 million cars and trucks. Many of these vehicles utilize start-stop technology, which allows cars to temporarily stop the gasoline engines, instead of idling. According to the Consortium for Battery Innovation, start-stop technology in cars eliminates 4.5 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually in the United States.
While some may argue that deep-cycle lead batteries are expensive, experts argue that battery power can be one of the most cost-effective methods to power equipment in most industries that utilize them. According to Fred Wehmeyer, U.S. Battery Manufacturing’s Senior Vice President of Engineering, flooded lead-acid batteries in most cases remain the most cost-effective method for powering equipment such as golf cars, aerial work platforms, floor cleaning machines, and other electric vehicles over the long-term. Even though Lithium Ion batteries can provide longer cycle life in some applications, their initial cost is many times higher than lead-acid batteries. Wehmeyer suggests comparing the actual cost of ownership over the life of the equipment between the two battery types. Even with several lead-acid battery pack replacements, this often shows that the flooded lead-acid battery pack provides the most cost-effective solution.
While this may change if projected improvements to Lithium battery costs are realized, the big benefit for lead-acid batteries remains their high recycling rate, since Lithium batteries are not currently being recycled as efficiently or at the high rate that lead batteries enjoy.
So if you’re contemplating a new golf car or a new forklift for your company, consider those battery-powered models can do more for your business than you had ever thought before. In addition, you would be participating in an effort to change our environment for the better and leave the Earth a better place for our future.