EU warned ‘lithium hazard’ classification could endanger battery investments

EU warned ‘lithium hazard’ classification could endanger battery investments

EU warned ‘lithium hazard’ classification could endanger battery investments 1000 666 Energy Storage Journal

June 9, 2022: Draft proposals that could mean the lithium used in electric vehicle batteries is designated as a hazardous material in the EU could choke-off investments at a crucial time for the bloc’s nascent battery production industry, a leading global chemicals producer has told BESJ.

Battery industry leaders have already condemned the proposals* by the European Chemicals Agency’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) that suggest lithium carbonate, chloride and hydroxide should receive a ‘Category 1A’ (a known human carcinogen) classification.

Now Albemarle, the US-based speciality chemicals producer with plants worldwide, has warned the classification “would have a negative impact on the possibility to establish lithium conversion plants in Europe”.

If the proposals go ahead, “lithium carbonate and hydroxide could be processed outside of Europe and then imported, with negative effects on European strategic autonomy”, Albermarle told BESJ.


“Inappropriate classification of the three lithium salts would create business uncertainty on which markets could be served, for which applications, but also on the industrial processes and which safety measures and plant requirements would apply, deterring investors from committing to Europe at a crucial time for the entire lithium value chain. Investors could therefore find other markets more attractive.”

“Similar limitations on investments would likely occur for the recycling of waste batteries and lithium-rich slag, due to regulatory uncertainty caused by this classification.”

Asked whether the proposals put the future of Albemarle’s Langelsheim plant in Germany at risk, the company said: “While the impact to our speciality customers is unclear at this point, we do not anticipate closure of Langelsheim.”

However, Albemarle said several of Langelsheim’s industrial customers do not use any other 1A substances and “would be forced to implement very strict rules to control the substance or look for alternatives, which are often not available or less performing”.


This would have a “direct impact on the plant revenue, which will already have to face higher operating costs compared to non-EU competitors due to the proposed classification”.

In March, a report published jointly by EUROBAT and industries representing manufacturers of batteries, ceramic frits and complex inorganic colour pigments, lubricants and greases and vehicles, said the three lithium salts were “fundamental and irreplaceable building blocks for the shift to electric mobility, the integration of renewables in the energy mix and more generally the achievement of the Green Deal objectives”.

*The RAC’s ‘Opinion proposing harmonised classification and labelling at EU level of lithium carbonate, lithium chloride and lithium hydroxide’ are being considered by EU member states, with responses expected to be made in the coming weeks. The European Commission did not respond to BESJ’s request for comment by the time of going to press.