Shaping the EU battery value chain


The EU’s new Batteries Regulation shapes the conditions for a European battery value chain. With the goal of a competitive battery ecosystem, the EU Strategic Action Plan on Batteries had already, in 2017, envisaged a new legislative setting. In December 2020, the European Commission announced a key element of the European Green Deal: a proposal for modernized EU battery rules.

After almost two years of discussion, the European Parliament and Council of Ministers in December agreed on changes to the original proposal and the EU Batteries Regulation will, after final approvals, likely enter force in the summer.

Delivering on expectations

Europe has approximately 7% of global battery manufacturing capacity, but most materials extraction and processing is done elsewhere. Long-term battery supply chain investment, and research and innovation, will continue to depend on a predictable, clear, consistent regulatory framework. The regulation sets new rules for competitiveness.

Recharge has advocated for years for carbon footprint and social responsibility requirements and welcomes the regulation’s introduction of such measures. These provisions are supported by a level-playing-field approach and by transforming market drivers for consumers to purchase sustainable batteries. Carbon intensity and due diligence provisions have the potential to not only prevent under-performing batteries entering the EU but to work toward the bloc’s climate-neutrality and sustainability objectives. If correctly implemented, the carbon footprint and due diligence measures have an unsurpassed steering potential to push European competitiveness based on sustainability and responsibility.

Sustainability, in addition to cost and performance, can become the competitiveness criteria. If correctly implemented, the sustainability measures will set the rules for selling batteries in Europe. Effective enforcement and control of the provisions is key.

Key details

Batteries will now have to show their carbon footprint and eventually comply with a maximum threshold: it will first be applicable to electric vehicle (EV) batteries, with mandatory declaration from the end of next year. Performance classes to steer consumer choice will arrive in mid-2026, and high-carbon footprint EV batteries will be shut out by a maximum threshold from the end of 2027. CO2 reporting will be mandatory for industrial batteries from the end of 2025, for light means of transport (LMT) devices – such as e-bikes and scooters – from mid-2028, and for rechargeable industrial batteries, with external storage, from mid-2030.

Industrial, EV, starting, lighting, and ignition batteries – such as those used to start cars – will have to report how much recycled cobalt, lead, lithium, and nickel they contain from mid-2028 and will have to hit minimum targets from mid-2031. The same will apply to LMT devices from mid-2036. From 2027, industrial, EV, and LMT batteries will need a battery passport, accessible through a QR code linking to a unique identifier.

Companies with a turnover of at least €40 million ($43.6 million*) will have to conform to due diligence requirements on the sourcing of cobalt, lithium, nickel, and natural graphite from mid-2025 and address social and environmental risks linked to sourcing, processing, and trading raw and recycled materials.

Portable battery makers must collect 45% of their waste this year, rising to 73% by the end of the decade and the LMT battery targets are 51% by the end of 2028 and 61% three years later. Lithium batteries must hit a 65% recycling target, by average weight, by 2025; and 70% by 2031.

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Regulatory weaknesses

Commission guidance will be crucial to safely applying the removable and replaceability requirements enshrined in article 11 of the regulation, applicable from the end of 2026, and Recharge will make recommendations on how to achieve that.

Responsibility for ensuring batteries are correctly collected and recycled at the end of their life must be assigned to the correct actor along the supply chain. If the producer identified as liable for extended producer responsibility under the regulation is not the last operator supplying the product to a distributor or consumer, it could be impossible to correctly record how many products enter an EU member state market.

Sustainability, competitiveness

While the European battery manufacturing segment remains relatively small, round 800,000 jobs are expected this decade if Europe manages to increase its market share to 20%. To achieve the sector’s potential, we need robust implementation of the regulations. It will be important to carefully specify technical details to relevant articles in the upcoming secondary legislative process, and to clarify inconsistencies in the commission’s guidance document. Recharge will work with legislators on the broad package of implementing legislation and to translate ambition into meaningful rules.

The industry is prepared for discussion of the secondary regulation, potentially determining the feasibility and efficiency of the regulation. The commission’s Batteries Regulation proposal is an important milestone to delivering the Strategic Action Plan on Batteries. The test of the effectiveness of the new rules will come this year, when they are expected to come into force.

*Currency translation correct on 02/02/23.

About the author: Kinga Timaru-Kast is director of public affairs and communications for Recharge, the association for advanced rechargeable andlithium batteries. She started her public affairs and communications career in Brussels at SolarPower Europe in 2006, where she stayed for nine years. She worked as head of communications at EuroCommerce, Grayling, and the EUFores parliamentary renewables network before joining Recharge in 2021.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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