Sven Giegold
Member of the European Parliament – Greens/EFA Group

Speaker of the German Green Delegation

New EU-proposal: Batteries become clean

Batterie, Battery

Today, December 10, the EU Commission presented a legislative proposal for a new battery regulation. The new regulation is intended to guarantee a safe and sustainable circular economy for all batteries on the European market. The proposal for a new regulation must now be passed by the European Parliament and the Council before it can come into force The new rules for batteries will replace the EU Batteries Directive which has been in force since 2006.

Yesterday, the EU Commission presented a new strategy for sustainable and smart mobility. In it, the Commission plans to have 30 million electric cars on Europe’s roads by 2030 and announces the further promotion of emission-free vehicles. In the coming years, the demand for batteries in the automotive industry will therefore increase rapidly. So far, there are no or only insufficient requirements for the production, efficiency and recycling and disposal of these batteries.

The new EU battery regulation is one of the first legislative proposals of the European Green Deal. It aims to ensure that all batteries sold in Europe are produced sustainably, including all imported batteries. For the first time, batteries must meet requirements for environmentally and socially responsible extraction of raw materials, as well as efficiency criteria similar to the existing energy efficiency label for many electrical appliances.

The EU sets new rules along the life cycle of every battery. Starting with minimum requirements for sustainable and socially responsible extraction of raw materials, through the CO2 footprint, to new recycling targets. In future, the CO2 footprint must be shown on every industrial and electric vehicle battery. The EU will set a maximum footprint which batteries sold in Europe must not exceed. This will set standards for sustainable production around the world.

For the first time there will be special recycling targets for lithium and cobalt. From 2026, 90 percent of cobalt, nickel and copper must be recycled, as well as 35 percent of the lithium used. From 2030, the targets increase to 95 percent for cobalt, nickel and copper and 70 percent for lithium. A new “battery passport” will ensure that batteries and raw materials are traceable and recycled. This will make each industrial and electric vehicle battery individually identifiable.

Labels on the battery are to inform consumers about its expected lifetime, charging capacity, the presence of hazardous substances and safety risks. Batteries for electric vehicles must include a battery management system that informs car owners about the battery’s state of health and expected life.

However, the new requirements will not only apply to car batteries. Products with everyday relevance for consumers will also be covered by the new rules. These include in particular batteries installed in products – e.g. in cell phones. These batteries must be replaceable in the future in order to extend the life of the products.

In our Action Plan for the Green Transition of the Chemical Industry, Jutta Paulus and I call for sustainability criteria for the production and (re)use of batteries as well as a complete recycling obligation for all batteries on the market. In this way, batteries should contribute to the energy transition and the transition to a clean and toxic-free circular economy.

MEP Sven Giegold, green rapporteur for sustainable chemicals, commented:

“Europe sets global standards for clean batteries. Batteries are a key technology for climate protection and the energy transition. With new rules on the CO2 footprint of batteries and the sustainable mining of raw materials, the EU is leading the way forward. In the future, all electric vehicle batteries must meet minimum social and ecological standards. This will limit the plundering of the environment, resources and people. It is an opportunity to massively increase battery production in Europe and thus secure competitiveness and jobs. High standards for Europe’s battery market contribute to clean mobility ‘Made in Europe’.

“Consumer rights are considerably strengthened. For the first time, all consumers will have access to information on battery life and charging capacity. This will strengthen the rights of electric vehicle owners in particular. E-mobility is only a real alternative to combustion engines if car batteries are produced and recycled in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner. All car batteries must be fully recycled. With a recycling obligation, we can reuse raw materials such as cobalt and lithium. Lithium in particular must be completely recycled. Genuine recycling not only increases the benefits for the environment, but also Europe’s independence from raw material supplying countries. We should trust the European industry to recycle batteries efficiently. After all, many companies are already doing it. The Commission has wasted this opportunity by setting a recycling target for lithium that is too low. With higher recycling rates, we can also increase the proportion of recycled materials in batteries.

“This proposal for green batteries is an opportunity to permanently strengthen the acceptance of e-mobility.”

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Link to the Commission’s proposal: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/batteries/pdf/Proposal_for_a_Regulation_on_batteries_and_waste_batteries.pdf