December 10, 2020: The new EU ‘Batteries Regulation’ published on December 10, the first since the Batteries Directive of 2006, has been met with a broad welcome from battery industry stakeholders, along with warnings of over regulation and complexity in the new 158-page document. EUROBAT has called it ‘a crucial piece of legislation that will define our industry for the next 15 years’.
The main points of the proposals include recovering increasing amounts of raw materials from all kinds of batteries; raising collection and recycling rates; providing detailed information on what each battery contains, including how much of the materials in each has been recovered; reducing the EU’s reliance on imports of materials; strengthening internal market processes and a circular economy with common rules for the single market; and reducing environmental impacts.
It also talks about restricting the use of hazardous chemicals, in particular mercury and cadmium, and aims to ultimately have battery makers declare the carbon footprint associated with each battery.
“This proposal is an important milestone,” said EUROBAT president Marc Zöllner, also CEO of Hoppecke Batteries.
“All battery technologies and applications will be regulated by this new piece of legislation, stretching all the way from batteries in vehicles and forklift trucks to energy storage and telecommunications. European manufacturing must take a leadership role for a sustainable future, to which all battery technologies will contribute.”
EUROBAT says the proposal aims to build the most environmentally sustainable energy storage solutions, but warns that to avoid ‘hindering innovation in a relatively new sector’, the regulation should not be too prescriptive. It gives a regulation on standardizing battery packs as an example, saying this ‘would go against high performance, energy-efficient battery products’.
“We appreciate that in most cases the proposal looks at the specificities of each battery technology and applications when it comes to recycling efficiency, collection and information requirements,” EUROBAT says. “For instance, the proposal correctly recognises that automotive and industrial batteries are collected at the end of their life, and rightly includes a continuation of the current no-losses policy in this regard.”
Recharge, the advanced rechargeable and lithium batteries association based in Brussels, says the proposal represents the next milestone in delivering an action plan for batteries, enabling policymakers to put the EU’s vision ‘for sustainable, innovative and competitive batteries “made in Europe”’ into a legislative framework.
Alina Pia Lange, official spokesperson of Recharge, says the 2006 Directive needed updating and the proposal has closed gaps in sustainability areas and recognises the benefits of batteries in this regard.
“The new framework also better reflects important market developments, such as the uptake of lithium-based batteries and batteries used in electric vehicles,” she said.
“We do see certain areas that have the potential of hampering the innovation and development of our products and industry, however. The specifics will have to be carefully defined in the next steps of the legislative process.”
Lange welcomed the fact that increasing the amount of recycled materials used would be implemented step by step rather than all at once, as “the burden on industry to implement recycled content obligations at a time when volumes of available secondary raw materials are insufficient would have risked jeopardizing the competitiveness of European batteries.
“Nonetheless, it is questionable if such an obligation will still result in a better environmental performance. Studies have shown that the environmental benefits of recycled content are very limited.
“Overall, implementing and controlling a recycled content obligation seems a disproportionate burden on the industry when recycling efficiencies and recovery rates already exist.”
Recharge says it has been calling for a framework to support the increasing role batteries can play in decarbonizing economies, but warns against imposing too many measures.
“In today’s proposal we see a high level of complexity and fear that this will translate into over regulating fast-paced innovative industries, such as batteries or electric mobility,” it said. “Closing the gap with international competition will depend on long-term investments and a coherent regulatory framework.”
The London-based International Lead Association says the proposals are a welcome step towards Europe’s zero-carbon objectives, with battery technologies being required to achieve them.
“We therefore support the focus of the new proposal on increasing recycling efficiencies and material recovery for all battery chemistries, increasing use of recycled materials in the manufacture of new batteries, increased requirements for due diligence and responsible sourcing of raw materials, and minimising the environmental footprint of batteries,” said managing director Andy Bush.
The regulation should go in force on January 1, 2022.