Battery industry chiefs have warned that a fresh assault on lead by European regulators risks “short-circuiting” proposals for an EU batteries revolution.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECA) said on 27 June it was adding lead metal to the EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) candidate list of substances requiring authorisation.
The move follows an exclusive BBB report last March alerting industry leaders of a backdoor attempt to “choke off” supplies of key raw materials for Europe’s lead-acid battery industry.
Now the Lead REACH Consortium— which represents battery makers, lead producers and recyclers— has said banning a key substance in battery manufacturing is a “backward step that flies in the face” of a batteries action plan launched by the European Commission just weeks earlier.
Lisa Allen of the Consortium said lead metal “is already subject to stringent EU legislation governing its use and one that is not accessible to consumers as batteries are sealed units”.
“We urgently need a more coherent plan to prevent this kind of disjointed policymaking,” Allen said. “It is damaging for industry and it’s damaging for consumers. It also makes attempts to decarbonise the economy and boost electrification that much more difficult.”
“The European Commission must urgently find a more appropriate mechanism to address any residual exposure concerns because REACH authorisation is clearly counterproductive.”
In a related move, the Commission may soon ask the REACH Committee to support adding four lead compounds, which now only have significant use in EU battery manufacture, to the ‘authorisation list’ as part of its attempts to ban toxic materials.
Allen said: “All batteries placed on the market contain or use hazardous substances for their manufacture. If the EU continues on its course preventing industry using these substances, we’ll have no battery industry of any sort, let alone the many industries who rely on our battery-making capability.”