The European Commission’s Battery Regulation proposal will boost the green and digital revolution
Strengths and weaknesses of batteries
Batteries are essential to achieve the objectives of the digital and green transitions. Furthermore, manufacturers employ them in different sectors, such as medical, low voltage devices, toys, electromagnetic devices, mechanical engineering, and radio equipment. Nevertheless, the entire life cycle of batteries, from raw material extraction to manufacturing and recycling, is related to several environmental and human rights issues. The new regulation on batteries proposed by the European Commission tries to address these questions and provide European customers with high-valuable products. Moreover, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission's science and knowledge service, actively cooperates with the EC to draw up an effective and far-sighted regulation.
New Batteries Regulation
Currently, the Batteries Directive 2006/66/EC, amended in 2018, regulates batteries at the EU level. However, it needs to be restructured due to the new social, economic, and environmental situation.
In April 2019, the Commission issued a report about the Directive's impact on the environment and the single market. It revealed several shortcomings, such as the weak recovery of materials, inadequate collection of batteries, and low capacity to keep up with the technological development and new application of batteries.
In December 2020, the European Commission's proposal for a new Batteries Regulation recommended several new elements that will effectively improve the quality of the batteries circulating in the single market, diminish the environmental impact, and strengthen the EU commitment to human rights protection.
JRC's five points to improve batteries
The JRC is fully supporting the initiative and, to make the batteries more performative and sustainable in environmental and social terms, has highlighted five relevant factors:
- Firstly, the batteries' life cycle is characterised by high exploitation of energy and materials, with harsh effects on the environment. The new regulation plans to apply a declaration of carbon footprint and the creation of carbon footprint classes and, at a later stage, set a carbon footprint threshold for batteries entering the EU. Furthermore, a lower level of carbon footprint would also constitute a competitive advantage for battery manufacturers.
- Enhancing safety is another significant aspect highlighted. Indeed, malfunctioning of one component could spread to the entire battery, causing severe effects, such as spreading toxic gasses and fire. To avoid dangerous side effects, the JRC is developing a new test to verify how these sparks off.
- Low-performing batteries will also be identified and replaced to provide customers with highly efficient batteries. Indeed, the JRC is working closely with the European standardisation organisations CEN and CENELEC to define the parameters to assess the batteries' performance.
- Raw materials are significant components of batteries, and the global demand will undoubtedly skyrocket in the following. To increase the reuse of raw materials, the JRC is currently analysing which effective measures and targets can be applied to maximise the reuse of valuable materials.
- Finally, according to the new proposal, the batteries in portable devices must be removable and replaceable to be better recycled and avoid any adverse effects or increased waste management costs. Therefore, the JRC is evaluating which parameters the EU can implement to determine the level of replaceability of batteries.
All of the above, alongside other requirements such as a “battery passport” requirement for industrial and electric vehicles higher than 2kWh, may appear in the prospective Batteries Regulation.
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Joint Research Centre, European Commission (2022) 5 ways EU scientists are making batteries better, safer, and greener. Retrieved on 16/07/2022 from https://joint-research-centre.ec.europa.eu/jrc-news/5-ways-eu-scientists-are-making-batteries-better-safer-and-greener-2022-07-20_en
European Commission (2020) Green Deal: Sustainable batteries for a circular and climate neutral economy. Retrieved on 16/08/2022 from https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_2312
European Parliament (2022) New EU regulatory framework for batteries: Setting sustainability requirements. Retrieved on 16/07/2022 from https://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document/EPRS_BRI(2021)689337