Negotiations on the proposal for a new EU Regulation on sustainable batteries have finally concluded. On 10 July 2023, the Council of the European Union adopted the new Regulation concerning batteries and waste batteries (EU) 2023/1542 (the "Batteries Regulation").
The Batteries Regulation applies to all categories of batteries, including portable batteries, starting, lighting and ignition (SLI) batteries, light means of transport (LMT) batteries, electric vehicle (EV) batteries and industrial batteries that are placed on the EU market.
In line with the circularity ambitions of the European Green Deal, the Batteries Regulation is the first piece of European legislation taking a full life-cycle approach in which sourcing, manufacturing, use and recycling are addressed and enshrined in a single law. The new regime will ensure that batteries have a low carbon footprint, use minimal harmful substances, need less raw materials from non-EU countries, and are collected, reused and recycled to a high degree in Europe.
Below we summarise the most important aspects of the new framework and what to do to best prepare for its implementation and compliance.
Since 2006, batteries and waste batteries have been regulated at EU level under the Batteries Directive 2006/66/EC. However, with demand for batteries increasing rapidly and set to increase 14-fold globally by 2030, the Commission launched the European Battery Alliance to build an innovative, sustainable and globally competitive battery value chain in Europe, and ensure supply of batteries needed for decarbonising the transport and energy sectors.
This originally led the Commission to propose to revise the Directive in December 2020. The proposal was designed to replace the Battery Directive that regulates the sustainability of batteries in the EU today.
The new framework
Today, the Council recognises that batteries are a key technology to drive the green transition, support sustainable mobility and contribute to climate neutrality by 2050. The Batteries Regulation starts to apply from 18 February 2024, from then onwards new obligations and requirements will gradually be introduced. Amongst others:
Starting from 2025, the Batteries Regulation will gradually introduce declaration requirements, performance classes and maximum limits on the carbon footprint of electric vehicles, light means of transport (such as e-bikes and scooters) and rechargeable industrial batteries. Targets for recycling efficiency, material recovery and recycled content will also be introduced from 2025 onwards.
Due diligence obligations will also apply where companies must identify, prevent and address social and environmental risks linked to the sourcing, processing and trading of raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and natural graphite contained in their batteries. The expected increase in demand for batteries in the EU should not contribute to an increase of such environmental and social risks.
Starting in 2027, with some limited exceptions, consumers will be able to remove and replace the portable batteries in most of their electronic products at any time of the life cycle. To help consumers make informed decisions on which batteries to purchase, key data will be provided on a label via a QR code, which will provide access to a digital passport with detailed information on each battery, helping consumers and especially professionals along the value chain in their efforts to make the circular economy a reality for batteries.
How to prepare
The Batteries Regulation effectively consists of six parts affecting different stakeholders in the battery value chain. In particular, the new framework:
- Introduces sustainability and safety requirements for batteries, including:
- mandatory minimum levels of recycled content for industrial batteries, SLI batteries and EV batteries. These are initially set at 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 6% for lithium and 6% for nickel; and
- subject to certain exemptions, provides that by 2027 portable batteries incorporated into appliances should be readily removable and replaceable by the end-user at any time during the lifetime of the product;
- introduces labelling and information requirements, among other things, on the battery's components and recycled content and an electronic “battery passport” and a QR code;
- requires a carbon footprint declaration for EV batteries, rechargeable industrial batteries with a capacity greater than 2 kWh and LMT batteries;
- sets due diligence rules for operators (except for those having a net annual turnover of less than EUR 40 million) who must verify the source of raw materials used for batteries placed on the EU market. Non-compliance may lead to restrictions or prohibitions for placing the batteries on the market and, if the non-compliance is serious, withdrawal from the market or recalling;
- sets targets for producers to collect waste portable batteries (63% by the end of 2027 and 73% by the end of 2030) and other extended producer responsibilities;
- introduces a dedicated collection objective for LMT waste batteries (51% by the end of 2028 and 61% by the end of 2031);
- sets a target for lithium recovery from waste batteries of 50% by the end of 2027 and 80% by the end of 2031, which can be amended through delegated acts depending on market and technological developments and the availability of lithium;
- sets the recycling efficiency target for nickel-cadmium batteries at 80% by the end of 2025 and 50% by the end of 2025 for other waste batteries.
- Setting out, amongst others, specific enforcement steps to be taken by Member State market surveillance authorities / Commission in case of batteries presenting a risk to human health or safety of persons, to property or to the environment (compliant or non-compliant batteries).
By mid-2025, Member States will be required to lay down rules on and specific penalties for any breaches of the Batteries Regulation.
The new regime will have a significant impact on manufacturers of battery-operated products, appliances, and vehicles, as well as on the battery industry as a whole. Steps to prevent enforcement actions should be taken today.
This article was co-authored by Andrea Carrera, Solicitor Apprentice. If you have any queries or would like any further assistance on this, please contact the Fieldfisher EU team in Brussels or our Technology Regulation practice.
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