EU countries give final greenlight to new battery production rules
The EU battery regulation cleared the final hurdle in its legislative journey on 10 July 2023, as member states voted to adopt new rules aimed at making batteries produced in the EU more sustainable and competitive.
First tabled in December 2020, the regulation covers the entire lifecycle of batteries, from the mining of raw materials to recycling, with the goal of ensuring EU-produced batteries are the world’s greenest. It replaces the now obsolete battery directive from 2006.
The agreement comes amid a surge in battery production and gigafactories globally, as demand for electric vehicles skyrockets. According to EU estimates, global demand for batteries is set to increase 14-fold by 2030, with the EU expected to account for 17% of that demand.
The law was overwhelmingly supported by EU member states, with only Bulgaria and Slovenia abstaining.
The revised battery regulation is intended to bolster the bloc’s fledgling battery market, as Europe looks to compete with the battery giants of Asia and the United States.
Electric vehicle batteries, portable batteries found in mobile devices, and industrial batteries will all be subject to the new rules. Batteries imported into the bloc will also need to meet the strict new standards.
“The new rules will promote the competitiveness of European industry and ensure new batteries are sustainable and contribute to the green transition,” said Teresa Ribera, the minister for the ecological transition of Spain, which currently holds the EU’s rotating Presidency.
A circular economy
In a bid to reduce waste, the regulation sets targets for producers to collect batteries at the end of their life. For portable batteries, a rate of 63% is set by the end of 2027 and 73% by the end of 2030, while a 100% target is set for electric vehicle batteries.
At least 51% of batteries from light means of transport, such as electric scooters and mopeds, must be collected by the end of 2027, rising to 80% by 2031.
Once collected, critical raw materials will be reclaimed from the waste batteries, ensuring they stay in the European production loop.
The production of certain types of batteries, notably industrial and electric vehicle batteries, will also be required to include minimum levels of recycled content: 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 6% for lithium and 6% for nickel.
These levels will be staggered over time, to ensure there are enough recycled batteries in the system to meet the EU-mandated targets.
The decision to include recycling and reuse targets is aimed at bolstering Europe’s meagre raw material supply, helping to lessen the continent’s reliance on imports of virgin metals from third countries.
Currently, China dominates the global supply of critical raw materials, leaving Europe largely at the mercy of the Asian market.
Each battery will include an electronic “battery passport” by 2026 and a QR code by 2027, which will allow consumers to learn more about the battery’s capacity, performance, durability, and chemical composition.
They will also be required to display a “carbon footprint declaration”, outlining the carbon expended in production.
This information is expected to help build confidence in the second-hand battery market, a key element in making electric vehicles affordable for more consumers.
The regulation also demands that by 2027 the batteries in handheld devices, such as smartphones, be removable and replaceable by the customer.
Preventing child labour
Under new due diligence rules, large operators must verify the source of raw materials used for batteries placed on the market, in a bid to prevent instances of child labour and abusive working conditions.
In 2016, Amnesty International sent tremors through the tech industry when it published a report revealing that 35,000 child labourers worked at cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s leading producer of the metal.
The report led to harsh criticism from lawmakers and consumers, and industry vows to address abuses in the supply chain.
Under the new rules, all companies placing batteries on the EU market must have a due diligence policy that addresses such abuses in the supply of raw materials.
The legislation requires third party verification, in line with OECD guidelines.
RECHARGE, a group representing the battery industry, welcomed the adoption of the regulation, saying it would go towards shaping “the future for a competitive and sustainable battery value chain”.
“Carbon intensity and due diligence provisions have the potential to not only prevent underperforming batteries from entering the EU market, but to truly work towards the climate-neutrality and sustainability objectives of the EU,” the industry association said in a statement.
Published by CVTI