The EU has set out plans for stricter guidelines on any batteries that enter the European market, which will require them to be more sustainable and recyclable.
The move is one of a number of initiatives in the EU Commission's new Circular Economy Action Plan. It was announced at the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday where leaders also discussed ambitious targets to more than halve carbon emissions over the next decade.
The European Commission says that introducing more sustainable batteries to the market is key to the zero-pollution targets set out in the European Green Deal. But it will also help to establish the EU as a competitive market for greener energy.
The Commission proposes to impose legal requirements for all batteries (industrial, automotive, electric vehicle and portable) placed on the EU market, including:
- The use of responsibly sourced materials.
- Restricted use of hazardous substances.
- A minimum proportion of battery content to be made up of recycled materials.
- Carbon footprint, performance and durability labelling.
Towards cleaner transport
The European Commission said that better and more efficient batteries will make a key contribution to the electrification of road transport, which will significantly reduce emissions, increase the uptake of electric vehicles, and facilitate a higher share of renewable sources in the EU energy sector.
With this proposal, the Commission also aims to boost the circular economy of battery value chains and promote more efficient use of resources with the aim of minimising the environmental impact of batteries.
From July 1, 2024, only rechargeable industrial and electric vehicle batteries, for which a carbon footprint declaration has been established, can be placed on the market.
"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 the Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans.
"The new batteries regulation will help reduce the environmental and social impact of all batteries throughout their life cycle. (Thursday's) proposal allows the EU to scale up the use and production of batteries in a safe, circular and healthy way," he added.
Establishing a circular economy
To close the loop and retain valuable materials used in batteries - such as cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead - for as long as possible, the Commission proposes to establish new requirements and targets on the collection, treatment and recycling of batteries.
In order to maximise the use of these materials, the collection rate for batteries from households must be increased: from the current 45 per cent to 70 per cent by 2030.
"Batteries are full of valuable materials and we want to ensure that no battery is lost to waste," said Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius. "They are essential for crucial sectors of our economy and society such as mobility, energy and communications."
Repurposing batteries from electric vehicles
The proposed regulation includes a framework that aims to facilitate the repurposing of batteries from electric vehicles so that they can have a second life. An example of this would be using them as stationary energy storage systems or integration into electricity grids as energy resources.
The use of new IT technologies, notably the Battery Passport and interlinked data space will be key for safe data sharing, increasing transparency of the battery market and the traceability of large batteries throughout their life cycle, the Commission said. It will enable manufacturers to develop innovative products and services as part of the twin green and digital transition, it added.
With its new battery sustainability standards, the European Commission said it will also promote the green transition globally and establish a blueprint for further initiatives under its sustainable product policy.