INTERVIEW: Former Exide CEO Tim Vargo says new firm Stryten is ready to go

INTERVIEW: Former Exide CEO Tim Vargo says new firm Stryten is ready to go

INTERVIEW: Former Exide CEO Tim Vargo says new firm Stryten is ready to go 150 150 Energy Storage Journal

October 15, 2020: Former CEO and president of Exide Technologies Tim Vargo has been speaking about the road ahead for Stryten Technologies, the company that was set up when Atlas Holdings bought the bankrupt firm in August.

He spoke of a healthy future for the company, with a focus on lead and lithium batteries and the continued operations of GNB, the industrial battery division. He said the recycling firm Element Resources, set up at the same time, would provide services to Stryten and would be its main lead supplier.

So why should Stryten Manufacturing succeed where its predecessor failed, not only once, but three times?

“The decision for Exide Technologies to sell its operating assets in the Americas was about positioning the company for long-term growth. The global economic impact from COVID-19 on the EMEA/APAC and Americas businesses was significant,” Vargo said.

“Selling substantially all the operating assets was the best opportunity to continue delivering high-quality energy storage solutions and services to customers.

“Stryten Manufacturing has strong financial backing from its new owner, Atlas Holdings. As a standalone company, Stryten will be able to focus on manufacturing industry-leading energy storage and power management solutions for our customers and have the ability to invest in continuing to strengthen our market capabilities and deliver best-in-class experiences to customers and to our employees.”

He said the company would set up Stryten Power Solutions for the transport sector, and GNB Industrial Power would continue to serve the motive and network power sector under Stryten.

“We have a strong portfolio of solutions for each of the markets we serve and are looking to grow our market share by investing in innovative technology and collaborating closely with our customers to win new business,” he said.

Focus on building batteries

Building batteries across all markets was Stryten’s strong point, and now that the recycling side of the business had been removed that is precisely what the company could focus on, said Vargo.

“Element Resources was formed by Atlas Holdings from the lead recycling plants it acquired from Exide Technologies. Stryten has a long-term tolling agreement with Element Resources as well as most major tollers, to help us keep our manufacturing costs competitive and to serve our customers’ recycling needs.

“But Stryten is focused on building the best batteries for each market we serve, and that includes lead and lithium solutions.”

Vargo said the company saw enhanced flooded batteries as the better solution for the automotive industry, “where it has been either performing on par with, or, in several cases, exceeding the performance of AGM — all at better cost efficiency.

“For us, it’s about leading with the market need and then bringing the best solution for that need or application.”

And there will be plenty of applications requiring batteries, Vargo believes, saying the company was bullish on the outlook for the lead battery industry and continued growth.

“Trends such as growth in the automotive industry, the increasing power needs of the modern vehicle, the growing demand for renewable energy storage for utilities and back-up power capabilities for data centers and telecommunications provide a need for lead batteries for many years to come,” he said.

With governments around the world setting goals and targets for decarbonization and electrification, a range of battery technologies was going to be needed to meet demand,

He quoted Alistair Davidson, director of the Consortium for Battery Innovation, who said: “Lithium-ion will obviously be a key player, but lead batteries are the only other battery technology that can meet the technical requirements for energy storage systems on a mass market scale.”

The transport sector would remain key for lead batteries, Vargo said, with almost all EVs being manufactured today still needing one in them.

“Overall there will be 17+ million cars, trucks and SUVs made this year. When you add that to the 280 million vehicles in North America and consider the fact that the average vehicle life in North America is just over 12 years, that’s a long runway for lead batteries to stay relevant and important in providing energy for our transportation industry.”

Telecoms, utilities and railroads were all growing sectors, and GNB would be a cornerstone in that segment, he said.

Fate of staff and Vernon

When Exide was sold, all employees were offered employment either with Stryten or Element, said Vargo.

“I never cease to be impressed with the amount of talent we have in our workforce as well as the long tenure of employees in our plants that make our batteries. In a time when some manufacturers are laying people off, we’re hiring people, which is a great spot to be in as a company.”

One thing that Vargo didn’t say much about was the fate of the Vernon site and other non-performing assets, which were largely to blame for the ultimate demise of Exide.

“Stryten Manufacturing is a new company separate from Exide Holdings, which should be wrapping up their bankruptcy in the coming months,” he said.

“My understanding is that the Exide Estate has proposed a settlement regarding these sites.”