Tin is used as an additive to lead-calcium alloys in the grids of lead-acid batteries in order to improve performance and to a lesser extent in the posts and straps of the battery. Some niche high end products use pure lead-tin alloys for further performance gains. Major market sectors for lead-acid batteries include starter batteries for cars and commercial vehicles and motive batteries for vehicles such as e-bikes and forklifts. Stationary industrial uses include back-up power storage for computer systems, telecoms and grid storage for alternative energy.
Industry Threats and opportunities
Overall medium term global growth prospects for lead-acid battery markets are very positive, with sharp increases expected in hybrid and electric vehicles, UPS for telecoms and grid-scale storage for alternative energies. Demand for electric tricycles and low speed e-cars is also excepted to grow, especially in rural areas of China.
Tin will benefit in the short term, especially in the Automotive sector for new stop-start hybrid cars now representing more than 40% of global production, although after 2025 the mainstreaming of fully electric vehicles will bring a high risk of substitution from lithium-ion.
In the next 5-10 years loss of the China e-bike markets, currently representing 51% of tin use there, will also impact tin use strongly. The survey data showed tin use in e-bikes grew by only 1%, consistent with forecasts of imminent rapid decline due to oversaturation, government city bans and competition from lithium-ion.
Lower tin contents and competitive battery technologies mean it will be harder to benefit from new markets in the Stationary sectors.