New EU regulatory framework for batteries


Sustainable batteries

“EU Proposal for Regulation concerning Batteries and Waste Batteries”

Introduction

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are the fastest growing technology on the market. Demand for LIBs is expected to sky-rocket (yearly by more than 30 %) for the next decade. While the EU has a strong presence in downstream segments of the value chain (battery pack assembly, recycling and re-purposing), cell manufacturing capacity lies mainly in Asia.

The EU will need up to 18 times more lithium and 5 times more cobalt
by 2030, and nearly 60 times more lithium and 15 times more cobalt by 2050, compared with the current supply to the whole EU economy.

Regarding the end-of-life handling more than 1.9 million tonnes of waste batteries are generated annually in Europe and the volume of recovered metals that are used in battery manufacturing is currently very low low. Only 12 % of aluminium, 22 % of cobalt, 8 % of manganese, and 16 % of nickel used within the EU is recycled.

Sustainable batteries: EU Law Reform

On the 17th  of March 2022, the EU Council adopted a general approach to a proposed regulation to strengthen EU legislation on batteries and waste batteries. The new rules will encourage the development of sustainable and safe battery production chains throughout the life cycle and create a level playing field in the internal market.

Changes Proposed

The proposed regulation concerning batteries and waste batteries has three interrelated goals: Strengthen the functioning of the internal market (including products, processes, used batteries and recyclables) to ensure fair competition adopt a common set of rules; promote a circular economy; and reduce the environmental and social impact of battery life cycle stages. Focus will be set on sustainability, safety and labelling to allow the placing on the market and putting into service of batteries, as well as requirements for their end-of-life management.

Click to view the Commission Proposals
  • the introduction, in the battery classification, of a new category of electric vehicle (EV) batteries, alongside the existing portable, automotive and industrial battery classes;
  • progressive requirements to minimise the carbon footprint of EV batteries and rechargeable industrial batteries: a carbon footprint declaration requirement, applying as of 1 July 2024, complemented by classification in a carbon footprint performance category and related labeling (as of 1January 2026); and a requirement to comply with maximum lifecycle carbon footprint thresholds (as of 1 July 2027);
  • a recycled content declaration requirement, which would apply from 1 January 2027 to industrial batteries, EV batteries and automotive batteries containing cobalt, lead, lithium or nickel in active materials. Mandatory minimum levels of recycled content would be set for 2030 and 2035 (i.e. 12 % cobalt, 85 % lead, 4 % lithium and 4 % nickel as of 1 January 2030, increasing to 20 % cobalt, 10 % lithium and 12 % nickel from 1 January 2035, the share for lead being unchanged);
  • minimum electrochemical performance and durability requirements for portable batteries of general use (applying from 1 January 2027), as well as for rechargeable industrial batteries (from1 January 2026). The Commission would assess the feasibility of phasing out non-rechargeable portable batteries of general use by the end of 2030;
  • a new obligation of battery replace ability for portable batteries;
  • safety requirements for stationary battery energy storage systems;
  • supply chain due diligence obligations for economic operators that place rechargeable industrial batteries and EV batteries on the market.For this requirement on responsible raw material sourcing (as well as for those related to the carbon footprint and the recycled content levels), the Commission proposal envisages mandatory third-party verification throughnotified bodies;
  • increased collection rate targets for waste portable batteries, excluding waste batteries from light means of transport (65 % by the end of 2025, rising to 70 % by the end of 2030);
  • as regards recycling efficiencies, increased targets for lead-acid batteries (recycling of 75 % by average weight of LABs by 2025, rising to 80 % by 2030) and new targets for lithium-based batteries (65 % by 2025, 70 % by 2030). The proposed regulation also envisages specific material recovery targets, namely 90 % for cobalt, copper, lead and nickel, and 35 % for lithium, to be achieved by the end of 2025. By 2030, the recovery levels should reach 95 % for cobalt, copper, lead and nickel, and 70 % for lithium.
  • requirements relating to the operations of repurposing and remanufacturing for a second life of industrial and EV batteries;
  • labelling and information requirements. From 1 January 2027, batteries should be marked with a label with information necessary for the identification of batteries and of their main characteristics. Various labels on the battery or the battery packaging would also provide information on lifetime, charging capacity, separate collection requirements, the presence of hazardous substances and safety risks. Depending on the type of battery, a quick response (QR) code would give access to the information relevant for the battery in question. Rechargeable industrial batteries and EV batteries should contain a battery management system storing the information and data needed to determine the state of health and expected lifetime of batteries.This system should be accessible to battery owners and independent operators acting on their behalf (e.g. to facilitate the reuse, repurposing or remanufacturingof the battery);
  • the setting up, by 1 January 2026, of an electronic exchange system for battery information, with the creation of a battery passport (i.e. electronic record) for each industrial battery and EV battery placed on the market or putinto service.
Click to View Added Changes

On 10 February 2022, the ENVI committee adopted its report on the proposal, with 74 votes in favour, to 8 against, with 5 abstentions. The report introduces the following main changes to the Commission’s proposed text.

  • It extends the scope of the proposed regulation to batteries for light means of transport, such as e-bikes and e-scooters, making them subject to the proposed sustainability requirements on carbon footprint, recycled content, performance and durability, removability and replaceability, and to the due diligence requirements.
  • It strengthens the proposed due diligence regime and expands its scope. Due diligence obligations should apply to economic operators placing any batteries on the EU market, and cover the entire battery value chain, i.e. the sourcing, processing and trading of raw materials, chemicals and secondary raw materials for battery manufacturing and waste battery treatment, the manufacturing operations, and related other business relationships. The report specifies the internationally recognised due diligence standards applicable to the due diligence process, adding explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Moreover, it includes additional battery raw materials (copper, iron and bauxite) in the scope of due diligence obligations, and defines further the environmental and social risks that due diligence policies should address. The report provides for civil liability of economic operators.
  • The requirements regarding carbon footprint information, labelling and maximum threshold values should cover electrical vehicle batteries, light means of transport batteries and industrial batteries.
  • The report extends the requirements on recycled material content to all battery categories, with the exception of portable batteries of general use.
  • Performance and durability requirements should apply to all portable batteries (and not only to those of general use), industrial batteries, electrical vehicle batteries, and light means of transport batteries (last category added).
  • The report requires the Commission to assess the feasibility of measures to phase out non-rechargeable portable batteries of general use by the end of 2027 (instead of 2030), including the setting of ecodesign requirements. From 1 January 2023, such batteries must be marked with a label informing the consumers that they are ‘non-rechargeable’.
  • The report allows for battery replacement by end-users. By 1 January 2024, portable batteries incorporated in appliances and batteries for light means of transport must be designed for easy and safe removal and replacement with ‘basic and commonly available tools’, and without causing damage to the appliance or the batteries.
  • As regards end-of-life management, the report sets more ambitious collection targets for waste portable batteries (70 % by the end of 2025, instead of the proposed 65 %; and 80 % by end 2030, instead of 70 %). It also introduces minimum collection rates for waste light means of transport batteries (75 % by the end of 2025 and 85 % by the end of 2030), and for waste portable batteries of general use (70 % by the end of 2025 and 80 % by the end of 2030).
  • The report also calls on the Commission to assess, by the end of 2025, the feasibility and potential benefits of setting up EU-wide deposit return systems for batteries, in particular for portable batteries of general use.
  • It sets a much higher material recovery target for lithium, raising it to 70 % in early 2026 (double the Commission-proposed figure) and to 90 % in early 2030 (instead of 70 %). On recycling efficiencies, the report introduces new targets for nickel-cadmium batteries (85 % by 2025).
  • The report asks the Commission to look into the introduction of harmonised standards for common chargers applicable no later than 1 January 2026 for rechargeable batteries designed for electric vehicles, those made for light means of transport, and those.

The new regulation will replace the current batteries directive of 2006 and complete the existing legislation, particularly in terms of waste management.

The European Parliament adopted its negotiating position in the plenary on 10 March 2022. The Council and Parliament will now start negotiations to reach an agreement on the final text.

For any further information concerning legal aspects of batteries and battery waste in the EU, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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    Key Contacts

    Energy Law
    Michael Palaiologos
    Attorney at Law LL.M

    Supreme Court of Greece

    Environmental Law
    john voutsinas
    John Voutsinas
    Attorney at Law LL.M

    Supreme Court of Greece

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