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OPINION Terry Murphy, chief executive of the Hammond Group reveals how his early background working with NASA has informed the approach that he believes the lead acid battery industry should take in the future.

Finding the right mix between collaboration and competition Murphy’s background in lead batteries goes back to his college days when he worked at the Hammond Group, packing 50lb bags of lead oxide, during the summers to pay for tuition. His first major job after graduation was working on the space shuttle main engines which brought him into indirect contact with lead batteries — but not as most of us at ELBC would recognize them. It was lead telluride — which used as a thermo-electric couple converts temperature differences into voltage, a system recently launched on the Mars Curiosity Rover, which is rolling on Mars today. But if his first professional connections with lead and energy storage verge on the arcane, that’s not the case any longer. In October last year Murphy took over as president of the Hammond Group — a company that is very much at the cutting edge of the lead acid battery business. What does prove fascinating, however, are the parallels Murphy makes between his far-off days with Rocketdyne a Californian company that built the propulsion and power systems for NASA— he spent 25+ years there — and the modern lead acid battery community. NASA forged a technology that eventually changed the way that we look at space. Similarly too, advances in lead battery design, will change the world’s energy storage picture completely, he believes. “We’re facing a new frontier and only just glimpsing the potential of advanced lead acid batteries,” he says. “A perfect example of this is the introduction of 48V lead acid batteries and a new generation of stop-start cars for all needs and climates could emerge with lead as the standard.” The ability to choose battery types will become increasingly evident. “Five years ago, if you wanted a battery, it was very much a commoditized product,” he says. “Nowadays, we’re ambitiously looking for an 80% increase in performance for

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20% of the cost of a lithium ion battery. “Products such as our K2 expander, for example, opens up a new world of business of offering tailored solutions which, as we did years ago, looked at producing the best for the whole system and not just one part of it. Like many in the lead acid community, Murphy is puzzled by the continued fascination with lithium as its rival. “When I worked for Boeing Rocketdyne Energy Systems part of my remit was to look across the whole organization and see how could leverage aerospace into a cleaner and greener fashion. “One underlying principle was a simple one — working out the total cost of ownership. This seems to be ignored by the admittedly clever people developing lithium batteries. “This situation can’t last forever. I believe we’re already seeing a turn-

around in automotive companies’ perceptions of non-lead batteries. We should soon be seeing that in greater research and development work, particularly in partial state of charge which is where the greatest benefits can be found. Hammond itself has recently repurposed one of its own facilities in an increase of its own R&D spend. Murphy believes that its research in expanders — he calls the arrival of its K2 product as a “complete gamechanger” — is just one step along a much more complex path for the firm. “We’re going beyond highly engineered expanders,” he says. “Traditional expanders used to have three components to them but now they have six. But we’re looking at better grid metals, greater varieties of additives, new lead alloys, additive manufacturing techniques and new battery geometries.” Part of the key to this is some kind of competitive/collaborative mix as an industry standard. “For the space shuttle to move ahead in the early years, we needed the whole aerospace industry — internationally and commercially — to participate. The challenges were too great for NASA alone. “We’re in a similar situation with pioneering the next generation of lead acid batteries — and that’s why we belong to an organization like ALABC.” A glance through Murphy’s CV shows that he has a long history of developing start-up projects and commercializing them. Initially this work was for large firms such as Boeing but until recently he’s been the driving force behind a variety of energy related start-up firms.

“Five years ago, if you wanted a battery, it was very much a commoditized product. Nowadays, we’re ambitiously looking for an 80% increase in performance for 20% of the cost of a lithium ion battery. Batteries International • Fall 2014 • 45

Batteries International — issue 93  

UPS embracing the latest technology — The global implications for energy storage of the latest UK TSO report — The changing rules on transpo...

Batteries International — issue 93  

UPS embracing the latest technology — The global implications for energy storage of the latest UK TSO report — The changing rules on transpo...