PRBA Urges Commerce Department to Propose Higher Energy Density Limits on Exports of Secondary Battery Cells

State-of-the Art Cells Power Electric Vehicles and Grid-Based Energy Storage Systems


Washington (January 14, 2015) – PRBA – The Rechargeable Battery Association has asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to propose at the next meeting of the Wassenaar Arrangement higher energy density limits for secondary cells needed to meet global demand for their use in hybrid and electric vehicles, grid-based clean energy storage systems and portable electronic consumer products.

Secondary battery cells with an energy density exceeding 300 Wh/kg are subject to international controls under the Wassenaar Arrangement established in 1996 to promote transparency in the international sales of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.

The existing energy density limit under the Wassenaar Arrangement “is unnecessarily inhibiting our members’ ability to optimize and market a number of promising cutting-edge lithium ion cell technologies for non-military, commercial purposes,” PRBA wrote in a letter to the Commerce Department.

“However, there is a need to encourage innovation and to commercialize cutting edge lithium ion cell technologies for non-military applications,” PRBA’s letter said, calling existing density limits “a significant impediment to those goals.”

Over the past 20 years, battery industry innovators have produced significant increases in the amount of energy stored per unit of volume or mass to meet the growing demand for higher density lithium cells by some of the world’s greenest companies, the letter stated. The density limit for secondary cells can easily be exceeded by existing lithium ion chemistries and newer technologies, the letter added.

Companies manufacturing in countries that are not part of the Wassenaar Arrangement can produce high energy density lithium ion cells and market them globally with no limitations. Therefore, American companies are “being competitively penalized because they do not have the same freedom to develop high energy density cell technologies and bring them to market,” the letter stated.

Although PRBA sought elimination of the 300 Wh/kg restriction, the letter said increasing the limit to 800 Wh/kg would be an acceptable alternative.

“The battery industry is global in scope, innovative by necessity,” said George Kerchner, PRBA’s executive director. “International trade is essential to our continued growth and prosperity,” Kerchner emphasized. “We appreciate the Commerce Department’s willingness to consider our request as they prepare for the next Wassenaar Arrangement meeting scheduled for April, 2015. PRBA looks forward to a speedy and hopefully favorable resolution of this issue,” he added.