Lead is terrible stuff: damaging to humans in even small quantities, and persistent if it's improperly disposed of.

Nonetheless, it's a central element of technology that has enabled a century of automobiles to be started via ignition keys rather than hand cranks--which occasionally broke the arms of hapless drivers.

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Now it looks like 12-Volt lead-acid batteries will be sticking around into the 2020s, at least if auto-battery providers and auto companies have anything to say about it.

The two industries have joined together in a request to the European Union to continue the batteries' exemption to EU regulations on hazardous substances.

European Union flag

European Union flag

Lead-acid starter batteries are "essential for the needs of future generations" of vehicles worldwide, says a brief from the International Lead Association (via Green Car Congress).

The request came in a formal submission to EU regulators during a public-comment phase in the consideration of rules contained in its End-of-Life Vehicle Directive.

That directive bans the use of lead in vehicles, but the group of battery-makers and auto companies and trade associations has requested that the exemption for lead-acid batteries be extended for another eight years.

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In its submission, the group included a study that determined there are today no viable alternatives to lead-acid batteries for starting vehicles in cold climates.

The study also noted that 99 percent of lead-acid batteries are recycled in EU countries, and that the high recycling rate makes the environmental impact of the batteries minimal against the total impact of the vehicle itself.

Furthermore, current lead-acid start-stop and "micro-hybrid" systems have cut vehicular carbon emissions substantially, an overall environmental benefit.

Porsche lightweight lithium-ion 12-Volt starter battery

Porsche lightweight lithium-ion 12-Volt starter battery

While a handful of lithium-ion batteries have been offered as options by high-performance car makers, mostly for their lower weight and compact size, no maker of size uses anything but lead-acid battery technology for 12-Volt starter batteries.

As well as ACEA, the European car-maker association, the Japanese and Korean auto manufacturers' associations also signed onto the exemption request.


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