A fresh call for the European Commission to rethink its ideas on battery regulation with regard to REACH and ELV was made last week by Chis Herron, of the lobby group Eurometeaux, which represent the non-ferrous metals industry.
Speaking at a half-day Eurobat forum in Brussels, Herron hit home hard with a simple proposition: “If Europe wants a battery industry to match its clean mobility goals, it must have a healthy metals sector.” And that is under threat from current and future scrutiny.
It’s not just lead that is in the firing line Herron said. In the near future cobalt, the key material in current lithium-ion cells, will come under the same scrutiny, which focuses too hard on substitution and bans.
Herron was not the only voice in the meeting angered by Brussels’ thinking. Paris-based Michael Osterman of Exide Technologies expressed his frustration with ELV and the misconception underpinning the regulations.
The scrapping of a car is not the end of life for a lead-acid battery— it’s the start of the recycling process for the batteries and in Europe we recycle some 300,000 tonnes each year, which is about 28 million batteries, Osterman said. “The lead ban has to end and recycling that we do must be considered.”
In addition, Osterman called for the importation of more battery scrap into Europe where the product can be properly and safely handled, so it is not poorly processed in developing countries.
As for REACH, Osterman argued that once products are registered there should be no further concerns. Substances are safely handled in plants, the SLI battery is totally enclosed and poses no health risk and we have established a 99% recycling rate.
More approbrium was tactfully hurled by Peter Jolejsi, of ASEA— the European car manufacturers’ association, which is facing the tough challenges of 15% emissions reduction by 2025 and 30% by 2030.
“The industry is the biggest private spender on R&D and one of the largest employers. At the same time, we have to deal with just 1.5% market uptake of electric and hybrid vehicles and all the challenges of smart, autonomous and market overcapacity. And there are still huge technical challenges— the emissions reductions need to be put back.”