December 18, 2020: The most significant EU legislation on batteries since 2006 has been met largely with approval from the lead battery industry, which has welcomed the 158-page December 10 Batteries Regulation, even if some have warned of over regulation and complexity.
EUROBAT said it was ‘a crucial piece of legislation that will define our industry for the next 15 years’, and ILA managing director Andy Bush said the association was pleased that the proposal — which should go in force in January 2022 — included a large focus on sustainability.
Claude Chanson, general manager of the Advanced Rechargeable and Lithium Batteries Association (RECHARGE), said the legislative framework would close gaps in existing legislation and level the playing field with international actors.
The proposal identified several reasons for the new directive, including the need for batteries to participate in Europe’s ‘clean energy transition’.
It said the European Investment Bank aimed to increase its support for battery projects to more than €1 billion ($1.2 billion) within a year, and that the World Economic Forum said battery production had to increase by a factor of nine to achieve the reduction in CO2 emissions sought by environmentalists.
To achieve these aims it was essential to address the lack of policy framework, incentives, efficiency within the single market, sub-optimal recycling processes and supply chain problems, the EU said, and this is what the proposal set out to do.
The main points include recovering increasing amounts of raw materials from all kinds of batteries; raising collection and recycling rates; providing detailed information on what each battery contains, including how much of the materials in each has been recovered; reducing the EU’s reliance on imports of materials; strengthening internal market processes and a circular economy with common rules for the single market; and reducing environmental impacts.
The amount of recovered material identified will be increased each year.
“Advanced lead batteries — which already supply more than 70% of rechargeable battery energy storage globally — will play an increasingly important role supporting a low carbon future, which is why welcome the ambition to both enhance Europe’s battery manufacturing capability and increase the amount of batteries recycled,” said Andy Bush.
“Lead batteries are already the most recycled battery in Europe, with all batteries which are collected at the end of their life recycled in closed loop.
“Currently, 80% of a new lead battery made in Europe is made up of recycled materials collected in Europe and of course we support thousands of jobs and supply many other key industries and services with products that deliver clean energy that is the key to the European Green Deal.”
However, the specifics in the proposal should be carefully laid out, says Pia Alina Lange, head of internal and external communications with RECHARGE.
“We do see certain areas that have the potential of hampering the innovation and development of our products and industry,” she says. “The specifics will have to be carefully defined in the next steps of the secondary legislative process. RECHARGE will play a constructive role in contributing to viable calculation methods for recycling efficiencies or recycled content as well as to standards and common specifications on the performance and durability of batteries, for example.
“As regards the recycled content measure, we believe that a stepwise implementation of such measures is crucial and we welcome that this concern has been reflected in the proposal. The burdens on industry to implement recycled content obligations at a time when volumes of available secondary raw materials are insufficient would have risked jeopardizing the competitiveness of European batteries.
“Nonetheless it is questionable if such an obligation will still result in a better environmental performance. Studies have shown that the environmental benefits of recycled content are very limited. Overall, implementing and controlling a recycled content obligation seems a disproportionate burden on the industry when recycling efficiencies and recovery rates already exist.
“Control, verification and enforcement are particular areas of attention for us. On the latter, it is difficult to distinguish a recycled metal from a virgin material and auditing of non-EU secondary material supply chains will be very challenging.”
The proposal also mentions the use of hazardous chemicals, in particular mercury and cadmium, and does not include lead — which in the past has been at risk of regulation by the REACH committee, a regulatory body affiliated to the European Chemicals Agency.
In February 2019, the ILA and EUROBAT were able to delay attempts by REACH to add four lead compounds to its candidate list of chemicals which would require special authorization before being used — potentially causing a devastating impact on the European lead battery industry.
“We are encouraged that the proposal properly recognizes that restriction of hazardous substances in batteries should only occur where an assessment risk to human health or the environment demonstrates that it is not adequately controlled and moreover should also take into consideration an evaluation of socio-economics,” said Bush.
“Streamlining this assessment by use of existing mechanisms in the REACH regulation is also welcomed and addresses our previous concerns regarding overlap and coherence between EU regulation.”
“This proposal is an important milestone,” said EUROBAT president Marc Zöllner, also CEO of Hoppecke Batteries.
“All battery technologies and applications will be regulated by this new piece of legislation, stretching all the way from batteries in vehicles and forklift trucks to energy storage and telecommunications. European manufacturing must take a leadership role for a sustainable future, to which all battery technologies will contribute.”
EUROBAT says the proposal aims to build the most environmentally sustainable energy storage solutions, but warns that to avoid ‘hindering innovation in a relatively new sector’, the regulation should not be too prescriptive. It gives a regulation on standardizing battery packs as an example, saying this ‘would go against high performance, energy-efficient battery products’.
“We appreciate that in most cases the proposal looks at the specificities of each battery technology and applications when it comes to recycling efficiency, collection and information requirements,” EUROBAT said. “For instance, the proposal correctly recognizes that automotive and industrial batteries are collected at the end of their life, and rightly includes a continuation of the current no-losses policy in this regard.”