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Making the battery market more sustainable

Tom Geggus | 14 Dec 2020

About the author

Tom Geggus

Journalist

As a journalist for Autovista Group's Daily Brief, Tom covers a wide variety of stories from across the automotive industry. From sales figures to the development of technology, he wants to know what is driving the industry.

The European Commission wants to enforce mandatory requirements on all batteries entering the EU market, which includes applications within the automotive sector, alongside industrial and portable-uses cases.

This could include using responsibly-sourced materials with constrained use of hazardous substances, including a minimum amount of recycled materials, as well as carbon footprint, performance and durability. The Commission argues this would help develop a more sustainable and competitive battery industry across Europe and the wider world.

These requirements come as part of plans that will modernise EU legislation on batteries, focusing on greater sustainability throughout their lifecycle. They also address social, economic, and environmental issues tied to all types of batteries.

The changes complement the Circular Economy Action Plan, a core building block of the European Green Deal. The Commission argues these roadmaps promote competitive sustainability while enabling green transport, clean energy and the attainment of climate neutrality by 2050.

Sustainable and safe

The proposals set out the need for batteries placed on the EU market to become sustainable, high-performing and safe throughout their whole lifecycle. This singles out batteries produced with the lowest level of environmental impact, using materials sourced in full respect of human rights, following social and ecological standards. Under these proposals, at the end of their life cycle, these units should be repurposed, remanufactured or recycled, allowing valuable materials to re-enter the economy.

In addition, providing legal certainty would help unlock large-scale investment and boost the production capacity for innovation and sustainability, to help Europe respond to a fast-growing battery market. ‘Better and more performant batteries will make a key contribution to the electrification of road transport, which will significantly reduce its emissions, increase the uptake of electric vehicles and facilitate a higher share of renewable sources in the EU energy mix,’ the Commission argues.

‘Clean energy is the key to European Green Deal, but our increasing reliance on batteries in, for example, transport should not harm the environment,’ said Frans Timmermans, executive vice-president for the European Green Deal. ‘The new batteries regulation will help reduce the environmental and social impact of all batteries throughout their life cycle. Today’s proposal allows the EU to scale up the use and production of batteries in a safe, circular and healthy way.’

Collection and recycling

With its proposal, the Commission also aims to boost the circular economy of batteries, promoting the more efficient use of resources, and aiming to reduce the environmental impact. From July 2024, only electrically-chargeable vehicles (EV) with a carbon footprint declaration can enter the market.

To improve the collection and recycling of portable batteries, the 45% collection rate should increase to 65% in 2025, and 70% in 2030. Units from the automotive sector meanwhile have to be collected in full. This enables the recovery of valuable materials like cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead.

The use of new technology, like the battery passport and interlinked-data space, will help enable safe data sharing, increase market transparency, and make large batteries traceable throughout their life cycle.

‘This future-oriented legislative toolbox will upgrade the sustainability of batteries in each phase of their lifecycle,’ said commissioner for environment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius. ‘Batteries are full of valuable materials and we want to ensure that no battery is lost to waste. The sustainability of batteries has to grow hand in hand with their increasing numbers on the EU market.’

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