Many will have seen the news items covering the despicable attacks on individuals where the weapon used was acid. In response the Government promised to tighten up the ease at which individuals can access acids.
From 1st July 2018 sulphuric acid solutions that have a weight in weight content exceeding 15% will now be a restricted substance under;
‘The Poisons Act 1972 (Explosives Precursors)(Amendment) Regulations 2018’ (see http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/451/made).
As battery electrolyte, commonly referred to as ‘battery acid’, contains more than 15% sulphuric acid it is affected.
This means that individuals wishing to buy battery acid for lead acid batteries will no longer be able to legally do so unless they apply for and are granted an EPP Licence (Explosives Precursors and Poisons). These last for up to three years and there is a detailed application process that needs to be supported by a number of documents along with a countersignatory and in some cases a medical certificate, and costs £39:50. See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/check-list-for-applicants-for-an-explosives-precursors-licence/explosives-precursors-and-poisons-licence-application-checklist
Now this creates a significant barrier to the classic car owner whose classic car battery is not one of the mainstream ones that can be found in ‘High Street’ motor shops. A classic example are the two six volt batteries that are used in MGAs and chrome bumper MGBs where generally this market has been served by owners able to buy dry charged batteries via mail order or the internet, which are then shipped along with separate sealed containers of battery acid that the owner adds to the dry cells of his new battery and this is then ready for use. Whilst continued sale and shipping of dry charged batteries will continue to be legal the supply of separate acid packs will not, and it is expected that all suppliers will cease the supply, except to individuals holding a current EPP licence. (There are fewer restrictions on supply between companies.)
The change in legislation restricting the sale of battery acid will also affect the viability of sales of dry batteries and shift most to a wet battery, (those already filled with electrolyte), but regulations surrounding the shipping of wet batteries makes this a much more restricted area, less practical and more costly.
The realistic prospect of individual owners wishing to spend £39.50 to seek an EPP licence for the one off purchase of a dry charged battery and separate electrolyte is virtually nil. In addition as battery life is usually more than three years, so this licence would need to be renewed again for the next purchase. This means it is safe to assume that the current dry charged battery market will decline. This leaves classic car owners with reduced options of either having to travel to their nearest supplier, which could be a considerable distance, or to consider converting to a modern widely available battery.
The Government is clearly aware the inclusion of Sulphuric acid into the regulated substances list will restrict many legitimate uses and that this will inconvenience many when in an explanatory document it says, ‘Regulated substances (poisons and explosives precursors) are chemicals that may be used to cause harm. They may also have legitimate everyday uses in the home or in hobby activities,’ but obviously the goal of reducing acid attacks has taken precedence.
The new legislation doesn’t stop there as from 1st November 2018 it will become an offence for any unlicensed individual to hold any quantity of battery acid, so those who have small remaining quantities of battery acid from their last dry battery purchase will be committing an offence to keep or use it after 1st November. Clearly the advice has to be to dispose of any existing quantities of separately stored battery acid before that date so there is no possibility of you ever being caught out by circumstances that you may never believe could occur.
Note that acid that remains in a battery is not restricted, but empty it out for any reason and as soon as it becomes separated from the battery is immediately restricted and an offence for any unlicensed individual to hold.