New EU regulatory framework for sustainable batteries: What’s in it?

Battery production: a strategic priority for Europe 

The transition towards a low-carbon economy and clean mobility means that the European economy will increasingly depend on batteries. The electric vehicle market is rapidly growing and EV sales will reach 15% of total car sales in 2021The global battery demand is therefore expected to grow exponentially over the next decade.  

For this reason, the production of batteries represents a strategic priority for Europe which aims to become a global leader in this field. In order to meet Europe’s climate ambitions and as part of the European Green Deal, the European Commission decided to modernise EU legislation on batteries that will help accelerate the transition towards a low-carbon economy.  

Modernising the EU framework on batteries 

Adopted in 2006, the current Batteries Directive regulates the manufacturing and disposal of batteries and accumulators in the EU to protect human health and the environment from hazardous substances. It requires producers to properly label their battery products and finance collection and recycling programmes, as well as public awareness campaigns for battery waste disposal. 

As part of a review of the existing Directive, the European Commission proposed last December to modernise EU legislation on batteries (see the new Batteries Regulation and its Annexes). The new requirements will cover the entire battery value chain as well as the whole life-cycle of a battery, from sourcing materials to possible second-life. It will also affect design standards, how batteries can be reused for different purposes and also cover smaller components like triple-A batteries. 

Towards greater sustainability, performance, and safety 

The proposed regulation aims to develop and use EU battery raw materials potential, both primary and secondary, ensuring they are produced in an efficient and sustainable way. It proposes targets for the efficiency of recycling processesminimum levels of recycled content, and new requirements such as a carbon footprint declaration. 

Overall, these new standards will positively affect the sustainability, safety, and labelling of batteries and aims at minimising their environmental impact.  

With the release of the Commission’s proposal, the legislative procedure is at its very early stage. Over the course of 2021, the European Parliament and the Council will discuss and adopt their position before entering into trilogue negotiations in order to agree on a final text. 

What about BALIHT? 

Redox Flow Battery (RFB) are not mentioned in the proposed text but our project is mentioned in the Staff Working Document accompanying the legislative text as part of batteries projects funded under H2020 programme. The document recalled that thorough consideration has been taken of the market and of Europe’s research agenda, so the revision is careful to avoid being overly restrictive in order to support innovation. Indeed, proofing legislation means striking a proper balance between predictability and legal certainty and allowing the sector to respond to technological progress. 

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