The future direction of the lead market will be dictated substantially by developments in China as it approaches the point at which China will account for over half of all lead consumption. Although the Chinese industry will continue to be driven mainly by batteries, it is already beginning to centre on automotive demand rather than e-bikes as the latter sector reaches saturation. Industrial batteries are also set to overhaul e-bikes in terms of consumption within the next ten years.
Years of legislative pressure on the automotive industry has led to the adoption of start–stop vehicle technology as an effective means to reduce fuel consumption and thereby harmful emissions. This technology is experiencing widespread acceptance especially in Europe and Japan, and to a lesser but increasing degree in North America, China, India, and elsewhere.

There are, however, some unresolved questions with respect to the use of start–stop batteries, such as their durability under a more demanding duty cycle and increased sensitivity to lead quality that forces the use of high-grade primary lead or highly-refined secondary material. Additionally, the technology requires batteries with higher capacity which results in more contained lead per unit. Uncertainties remain whether this increased imperative for more and better lead per battery will be offset by an increased service life through more sophisticated battery monitoring and charging systems.

Farid Ahmed
Wood Mackenzie Ltd
Principal Analyst Lead Markets

Biography: The author has spent his entire career in the metals industry after graduating from the University of Leeds with an honours degree in Metallurgy. His introduction into the lead industry occurred in the early 1990s as a Production Metallurgist for a large European producer and, like many in the industry, has found it impossible yet undesirable to leave this industry ever since.

After a handful of years he transitioned into the commercial world of lead within the same corporation, but with the advantage of being able to combine his specialist background with the wider business needs of a technical and commodity based product.

In 2005 he founded a business consultancy focusing on the metals industry and on lead in particular, with engagements including market analysis, raw materials acquisition, process development, product failure, capital investment, due diligence and as expert witness.

In 2015 he joined Wood Mackenzie as Principal Analyst Lead Markets, bringing this wealth of experience to a leading provider of commercial intelligence for base metals markets.

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