A jam-packed show floor, multi-media displays and a combination of intense and lively networking at each booth. The Detroit Auto Show? Not at all. Think 25 miles northeast in the suburb of Novi at an ultra-modern venue called The Suburban Collection Showplace where an esoteric sounding event called The Battery Show has grown from a once sparsely attended trade show to the Detroit area’s new hottest ticket.
Why not? Electric and electrified vehicles, including hybrids, are where the auto industry is heading. As one vendor told me, “You gotta have batteries to make these things go.”
Cruising the expansive 305,000 square foot exhibit floor one runs into displays from companies that run the gamut, including battery cell solutions, charging stations, battery monitoring, automated testing, raw material handling, adhesives and robotic welding.
I’ve covered The Battery Show for the past five years and watched it grow, and grow, shrink during the COVID pandemic and now grow again so large, it has to move. More on that in a bit.
During my first visit in 2018 a few thousand attendees registered and floor traffic was sparse, but during his remarks on the show’s last day, chairman Bob Gaylen announced more than 18,000 people registered to attend this event, the 13th annual Battery Show. Not much white space between tightly packed attendees.
They didn’t come just to look around. “They were making deals, they were having investment discussions,” Gaylen said.
A representative at one vendor booth told me her company certainly made plenty of deals during the show’s three-day run. Indeed, it’s mandatory for any company involved in any aspect of battery production, research and testing to have a presence at the show.
The Battery Show is, appropriately, a hybrid show, as it’s co-located with the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology Expo attracting more than 800 vendors. The two shows, sitting side-by-side, take up the entire show floor space.
Those booths are where a lot of networking opportunities happen. A walk down any of the long aisles takes you past clutches of conversations between company reps and engaged attendees, but there are also several dedicated networking events off the floor for additional opportunity to make important, and hopefully, lucrative connections.
In addition to stop-by conversations, opportunities to win wider exposure for your company range from giving keynote speeches or participating in panel discussions in front of audiences of up to 1,000 in one of the large ballrooms to giving more intimate presentations to about 100 attendees at the Open Tech theater on the show floor, to demonstrations at the booth for small groups.
The show has grown in another important way. It was pretty lonely in the media work room that first time I showed up to cover the event. It was me and one other person from a small trade publication. Over the years significant and influential publications such as Wards Auto and Automotive News, along with some other trade pubs, have seen the light.
That brings us back to The Battery Show growing so large it’s grown out its venue. When the show returns next year, it won’t be to suburban Novi, but to downtown Detroit at Huntington Place, the same place where the Detroit Auto Show is held. Since both shows obviously can’t occur at the same place at the same time, The Battery Show will move to October 7-10, 2024.
In announcing the change, Gaylen said the move was needed, in large part, to accommodate the growing number of companies begging to participate but had been languishing on a waiting list. With more space, show organizers now estimate the 2024 event will attract about 900 exhibitors and more than 15,000 attendees.
With a higher profile location and escalating importance in an increasingly electrified industry, side-by-side events instantly become more attractive for enticing new business and new contacts and boosted media coverage.
As evidence of the event’s rapid rise, on the first media day of the Detroit Auto Show, widely read and heard auto analyst John McElroy touted The Battery Show during his radio commentary shouting: “Watch out auto show, this is where the action is now!”