According to a report in Reuters, China backed down from a plan to reclassify large electric bicycles as motorbikes last week, a move that threatened to derail the phenomenal growth in the e-bike market and a major driver for lead consumption. The proposed legislation stirred widespread fears that more than 2,000 e-bike factories would close and millions of users would need to get licenses and insurance for motorbikes. China’s Standardisation Administration said it was rethinking the idea of re-classifying e-bikes that weighed over 80 lbs or that can go faster than 12 miles per hour as electric motorbikes. Top of the range e-bikes in China are designed to go as fast as 20 mph and usually carry 4 lead batteries, which weigh 35-60 lbs. State research group Antaike estimated the production of e-bikes accounted for 26% of China’s total refined lead consumption at 2.9 million metric tons in 2008, just behind the car sector, which accounted for 28.5%. The group estimates that production of e-bikes used 754,000 metric tons of refined lead in 2008 from a total consumption figure in China of 3.37 million metric tons.
In a separate report, International Lead and Zinc Study Group’s (ILZSG) December bulletin showed the global lead market was in surplus by 51,000 metric tons in the first 10 months of 2009. The report stated global refined lead use was 7.299 million tons compared with world refined lead output at 7.350 million tons. Producer stocks at 134,000 metric tons are down from 146,000 metric tons this time last year underlining the strength of the ongoing demand. Price are expected to rise strongly in 2010. JP Morgan is predicting lead at US$ 2,700 by the middle of next year on the back of continued demand from Asia and a recovering demand from OECD western markets.