Politicians have voted in favour of new measures that govern Europe’s entire battery product life cycle, from design to end-of-life.
Members of European Parliament (MEP) agreed with the European Commission’s plan to overhaul legislation to consider technological developments and amended provisions, including the introduction of a new category of batteries for ‘light means of transport’ (LMT), such as e-bikes.
The Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) adopted the proposals on 10 February, with 74 votes in favour, 8 against and 5 abstentions.
The proposals include rules on a carbon footprint declaration and label, a maximum value for the life cycle carbon footprint, and minimum levels of recovered cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel from waste for reuse in new batteries.
By 2024, portable batteries in appliances, such as smartphones, and batteries for LMT must be designed for easy and safe removal and replacement by consumers or independent operators.
MEPs want firms placing any batteries on the EU market to follow internationally recognised due diligence standards across their entire value chain— including addressing risks around the sourcing, processing and trading of raw materials, chemicals and secondary raw materials.
Collection targets for portable batteries were also raised to 70% by 2025 (compared to the Commission’s original proposal of 65%) and 80% by 2030 (instead of 70%); minimum collection rates for LMT batteries are 75% by 2025 and 85% by 2030.
All waste automotive, industrial and electric vehicle batteries must be collected.
The report is expected to be adopted by plenary in March, and will constitute Parliament’s negotiation position with EU governments on the final shape of the legislation.
However, EUROBAT— the association for battery European manufacturers— has expressed concerned that some of the new amendments go in the opposite direction of supporting the development of the European battery industry towards achieving strategic autonomy.
EUROBAT president, Marc Zoellner, said: “I call on MEPs ahead of the plenary vote to continue to help the new Batteries Regulation support the ongoing establishment of a thriving EU battery value chain. This will enable Europe to achieve its ambitious 2030 and 2050 climate and energy targets.”
EUROBAT has been working with MEPS and Member States since the publication of the Commission’s proposal for a new Batteries Regulation in December 2020; with some suggestions to improve the proposal integrated in the Parliament’s amendments.
EUROBAT members highlighted a number of points, including: the scope of the Regulation, the timeline of its implementation and thresholds for recovered material—which still need to be addressed by the European Parliament’s Plenary to ensure batteries can most effectively support the green and digital transitions.
Eurobats concerns are:
- Battery definition and classification
The definition should refer to finished products that are ready to use to avoid additional administrative costs for batteries, modules and packs produced in Europe, compared with ready for use imported batteries.
Furthermore, the classification of batteries must ensure proper collection and, as such, SLI batteries (for starting, lighting and ignition functions) should include auxiliary batteries and exclude industrial machinery batteries, the latter being collected through industrial channels.
- Producer definition
Producer status should be clearly assigned to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the appliance or vehicle in situations where the battery is sold domestically, as is already the case when the battery is imported.
As they are closer to the market, OEMs should therefore assume end-of-life responsibilities irrelevant of the country of supply.
- Extended producer responsibility
Remanufacturers, rather than battery producers, should organise the preparation for repurposing and remanufacturing of batteries, as well as cover the costs involved in such operations. Indeed, recycling and repurposing a battery is a source of income for remanufacturers.
- Carbon footprint, performance and durability of batteries
The scope of the measures should be limited to specific applications. ’Industrial batteries’ is too broad a category and includes multiple technologies that serve hundreds of very different applications. These batteries cannot be assessed according to same requirements as those used to assess EV or energy storage batteries.
- Chemicals management
The management of hazardous substances under the proposed Regulation should be conducted in a single legal framework (REACH) to ensure legal and business certainty and avoid duplication of administrative efforts.