There is no doubt that over the past years the battery industry has boomed. With the introduction of lithium batteries back in 1990, as part of portable electronics and household items, batteries today are very much ubiquitous and embedded into our everyday life.
The innovations in the sector have skyrocketed, with data showing that between 2005 and 2018, batteries accounted for around 88% of all patenting activities in the electricity storage field. With a focus on increasing durability, density, while being compact, batteries are now used in a variety of sectors, being a crucial element in the transition from fossil fuels dependence to clean energy, and driving the electro-mobility era.
One way to move towards the EU's net-zero goal by 2050, is by transforming this sector and enabling alternative options. Electric vehicles (EV) are one of the biggest segments that capture the benefit of the latest battery developments. According to Bloomberg NEF, passenger electric vehicles sales are set to grow to 14 million in 2025, compared with just 3.1 million back in 2020.
However, the projected growth has introduced a few more layers of concerns, with most questions related to the main ingredients of batteries. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, and lead, as well as other raw materials, are seeing a significant increase in demand, which raises questions about their impact on the environment, and the practices implemented at an upstream level during the extraction activities.
With this in mind, policies and regulations are becoming indispensable as a way to support development, and promote the circular economy concept by being a growing part of governments' agendas.
The EU Battery Directive (2006/66/EC), introduced in 2006, is the latest regulation in place - and has been regularly updated in the years that followed. It applies to the traditional battery types such as portable, automotive, and industrial, and focuses on minimising the impact of waste batteries on the environment.
However, this directive does not adequately reflect new types of batteries and industry developments, and provides little visibility into additional aspects such as the usage of critical raw materials (CRM) as well as the quality and safety of products placed on the EU market.
These changes demand a more extensive focus, which includes not only the end-of-life management of batteries, but also the incorporation of additional socio-economic and sustainability requirements.
Another reason is the strategic importance of the battery sector and the resources involved with it. The global battery market size is estimated to reach EUR 240.6B for the period 2020-2027, signalling significant increase in demand, and currently the European battery industry accounts for around 5% of the global battery manufacturing market.
In order to reflect these changes, a revision of the current legislation was initiated by the European Commission, resulting in a proposal creation process with multiple steps, including an Impact Assessment study and a round of extensive stakeholder consultations, before its release in December 2020.
On the 10th of December 2020, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council, concerning batteries and waste batteries. The proposal is seen as a modernised legislation aimed to substitute the previous Battery Directive (2006/66/EC), and amend Regulation (EU) No 2019/1020. The expected date of entry into force is January 1st 2022, however, an official decision has not yet been announced by the European Parliament and EU Council.
This document is seen as one of the very first initiatives under the Circular Economy Action Plan, and in line with the goals of the European Green Deal, which aim at net-zero greenhouse emissions (GHG) by 2050.
In addition to the above, it introduces the electric vehicle batteries as a separate battery category, along with the already existing portable, automotive, and industrial batteries. This new category refers to all those batteries specifically designed to provide traction to hybrid and electric vehicles for road transport. Whereas the automotive battery category refers to any battery used only for automotive starter, lighting or ignition power. Furthermore the proposed regulation also introduces a new concept of making information and labeling requirements available through suggesting an Electronic Exchange System (EES) and a Battery Passport.
Overall, the European Commission is putting emphasis on ensuring all batteries placed on the EU market (both produced and imported) are sustainable, circular, and safe throughout all aspects of the battery life-cycle, from inception to market placement and beyond.
With a time frame of requirements spanning throughout the next 13 years, the proposal addresses different stages of each battery category and its life cycles.
The graph below outlines most of the main requirements and timelines introduced for each battery category.
It should be noted that most of the listed requirements are still pending different acts, methodologies, and tools that the European Commission should bring in force before their actual application starts.
For example, in the case of carbon footprint declaration, the European Commission should adopt a delegated act no later than 1st of July 2023 to supplement this proposal and provide guidance as well as a methodology of the preferred way of calculation, along with a prescribed declaration format. The same applies to some of the other requirements too.
The Electronic Exchange System (EES), or Battery Dataspace, is an online repository listing all battery manufacturers and their battery types placed on the market, including detailed information. The aim is to provide better traceability through the digitalization of data and make certain details available to the public and institutions, with the end goal of aiding decision-making at each step of the battery supply chain. It is envisaged as a system where more general information such as battery manufacturing details, composition, and certain parameters are available to the public, while more sensitive and technical information relating to the nature of the manufacturing or battery testing and safety details are made available only to relevant institutions.
On the other hand, a Battery Passport resembles a digital ID that's unique to each battery. It is seen as a step forward in the development of secondary battery markets for recycling and reuse, as well as providing visibility in the responsible sourcing and sustainability practices along the supply chain. This should help various stakeholders, including recyclers and end-users, to better plan their workload and purchasing decisions.
In addition to this, a Battery Passport shall include performance and durability criteria details that indicate the battery health status as dynamic data linked with the EES and accessible online. The responsibility for the Battery Passport and its updates is set to stand with the economic operators that place the battery on the market or put it in service.
Both the EES and the Battery Passport shall apply only to EV and industrial rechargeable batteries with capacities larger than 2kWh. The expected implementation date is by the 1st of January 2026.
As the informational requirements are quite robust, the European Commission is set to adopt implementation acts by the end of 2024. These should define the architecture and format of the EES, as well as the rules for sharing and managing data within both of these categories.
To see an illustration of how a QR code can link to a Battery Passport and what the Battery Passport can contain as information you can scan this QR code:
The EU Battery Regulation Proposal applies to all batteries placed on the EU market, no matter the country of origin.
The responsibility for ensuring compliance comes to all economic operators who place batteries on the market. This refers to battery manufacturers, importers, distributors, authorized representatives, and fulfillment service providers, each with a different set of verification options for making sure the batteries placed are compliant with the regulation.
The proposal also prescribes an obligation for economic operators to keep the documentation for 10 years and make it available at any point during that period if requested by a national authority.
A public consultation round was held between the 10th of December 2020 and the 1st of March 2021 and resulted in feedback from 135 different stakeholders. Most of the feedback focused on the clarity of the proposal in terms of; 1) more precise definitions; 2) careful elaboration of methodologies; 3) re-evaluating targets and; 4) ensuring regulations are not duplicated. A more detailed view of the feedback and concerns this proposal has received are presented in the chart below.
The new EU Battery Regulation Proposal is considered to be a first of its kind globally, in terms of its broad scope. Yet other countries, predominantly battery manufacturing economies such as China, have already put some measures in place.
The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology introduced “Interim Measures for the Management of Recovery and Utilization of New Energy Vehicle Power Battery” in 2018. This resulted in a strict regulation starting from 2020 and requiring manufacturers to respect recycling targets, recovery rates, and track the ownership of batteries once they are inactive.
The same applies to South Korea, which launched a four-year lithium reuse scheme in February 2021, intending to accelerate the reuse and recycling of old batteries. This scheme was in partnership with leading companies such as Hyundai and LG Chem.
In the USA, even though there is a lot of emphasis on transport electrification being a priority, legislation is still lacking on both federal and state levels. The US federal law does not entail EV battery recycling or extended producer responsibility. However, different states have started addressing this on a state level, with California leading the way with its Lithium-Ion Car Battery Recycling Advisory Group.
With this in mind, it seems that manufacturers originating from countries with similar regulations/measures such as the Proposal will have a certain competitive advantage compared to the ones from non-regulated regions. This is because of the challenges these companies may encounter in having to establish additional compliance practices for making their products available to the EU markets.
Batteries play an important role in our lives. On an individual level, most of us probably have an average of 6-10 devices using batteries in our everyday activities. On an industrial level, the projected growth and accelerated development make it very clear that all stakeholders need to be able to make more informed decisions.
Consumers want to know what they are using, how it was made, and where it comes from. Institutions want to know what is being sold, whether it is adhering to the regulations and how it will be handled after its end-of-life.
Despite the wide scope of this proposal, it also points towards setting up a single harmonized market for all EU Member states. The focus has shifted from the traditional alkaline and lead batteries, to the batteries of the future and their development, production, reuse, and recyclability aspects, covering their whole life cycle and providing for more transparency.
Yes, the new proposal comes with a whole set of proposed targets and pending delegated acts, but the end goal is making sure that what is placed on the market is within the safety and quality requirements, yet also aligns with the sustainability efforts the EU aims to achieve.
While it is still in review, economic operators have to be aware that it includes a great set of new measures. Ones which will require them to reorganize workflows and adjust their systems to be able to comply.
One way of doing that is by starting with a careful analysis of how each of the new requirements might affect your company as part of the battery supply chain. Getting proper insight into your supply chains and setting up mechanisms to capture the sources of materials can be a good start.
Digitalization and sustainability are a major part of this Proposal. What this means is that mapping respective supply chains and organizing the available product information into digitally traceable data might be a good logical step towards adapting to what will come in force.