The current surge in post-COVID demand for rechargeable vehicles, cutting-edge smartphone apps and energy storage capacity is fueling a seemingly relentless demand for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Yet while their high energy density, low discharge rate, and basic versatility mean that the lithium-ion battery market is expected to grow from $ 41 billion in 2021 to $ 116 billion by 2030, large swathes of the industrial world still depend on lead-acid. batteries. Thanks in large part to their proven technology and cost-effectiveness, demand for lead-acid batteries is also booming and is expected to support a market of its own worth $ 77 billion by 2026.
MONBAT GROUP has one foot in both camps. Established as a state-owned enterprise in 1959 in the city of Montana, in northwestern Bulgaria, to supply the Soviet Union with lead-acid batteries to support its strategy of expansion in heavy industry , the company was bought by the Bobokov brothers in 1998. Since then, MONBAT GROUP has become one of the largest battery producers in Europe by pursuing a policy of market and product diversification. In addition to selling in more than 70 countries around the world, MONBAT has also extended its range of products and services to include lithium-ion batteries and the recycling of lead, lead alloys and regranulated polypropylene used in the production of conventional batteries.
It is a successful formula. Between 2012 and 2020, sales increased 66% and topped $ 200 million when the pandemic hit. Today, according to the majority shareholder of MONBAT GROUP, Atanas Stoilov Bobokov, the company has regained its momentum. COVID slowed us down, he concedes, but our plans for the next five years remain ambitious.
These plans are also very targeted. Despite the enthusiasm for lithium-ion batteries, Bobokov is confident that demand for the company’s historically core lead-acid battery product line will continue to grow for several decades to come, although customer requirements will evolve. almost certainly. In 2018, in anticipation of this, the company acquired the license for the GreenSeal bipolar technology from Advanced Battery Concepts, which significantly simplifies the manufacture of lead-acid batteries and significantly improves performance by increasing service life, reducing weight. , reducing recharging time and improving reliability, while being fully recyclable.
The technology perfectly matches new regulations in the EU and requirements elsewhere, said Bobokov. MONBAT GROUP is now seeking investors to help develop the world’s first manufacturing facility capable of producing batteries that make full use of new technology, while providing facilities to explore new trends in the reserve energy market.
Bobokov and his colleagues have identified opportunities in the lithium-ion battery market that will avoid putting them on a competitive collision course with major European, Chinese and American manufacturers. We would like to specialize in high power lithium ion batteries used by industrial segments smaller than those designed for electric vehicles, for example,he says. These are niches that we don’t believe will appeal to the giants of the industry because the workforce is smaller and the markets are more fragmented.
Ferries offer such an opportunity. A new EU directive states that no ship or other vessel is allowed to enter a port with its main engine running, meaning they will have to rely on their backup safeguards. Although this is a niche market, we believe there is every chance that it will become a big, he says. But developing it is going to be a capital exercise, and we are looking for a partner to work with us. If we can find the right one, we could build a sample factory in Bulgaria and then replicate it anywhere else in the world.Montana is located in the very heart of the Balkans and over the years the company has taken full advantage of this to penetrate markets in Western and Eastern Europe. Today, as the cost and weight of rechargeable generator sets continue to decline, demand is increasing in countries where access to power grids remains uneven. The starter battery segment also shows no signs of slowing down. An increasingly important part of our sales now comes from regions where electrification will not occur anytime soon,said Bobokov. While this has resulted in a growth in the Pan-African footprint of the Monbat Group, the quality of its products and competitive prices have also led to more orders from several developed markets in the Far East, including Japan and Taiwan.
With its three businesses focused on growing markets, Bobokov is now looking for serious partners. Our challenge is not our products or their market potential, it is to meet demand with current production capacity.