The European Parliament has passed a groundbreaking law which sets high environmental standards for batteries from electric cars. Green groups Transport & Environment (T&E) and Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) welcome the EU Batteries Regulation which will, for the first time, set environmental protections throughout the entire life cycle of batteries – including the sourcing of raw materials, production and recycling.
Battery manufacturers which want to sell in Europe will have to report the product’s entire carbon footprint, from mining to production to recycling, as early as July 2024. That data will then be used to set a maximum CO2 limit for batteries to apply from the end of 2027, ensuring that companies make them using clean energy instead of fossil fuels.
Alex Keynes, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said: “Batteries are already far more sustainable than burning oil in our cars, but they will soon have to be even better. New rules on carbon footprint, recycling and due diligence checks, provided they are properly implemented, will mean batteries sold in Europe will set the standard for the rest of the world. The next step is to put in place measures to bring to market smaller and affordable electric vehicles that use even less materials.”
Companies selling batteries in the EU will also have to comply with rules designed to prevent environmental, human rights and labour abuses in their supply chains. The law will require battery-makers to identify, prevent and address a wide range of issues, spanning water pollution to community rights.
New EU recycling targets will extend the climate advantage of batteries over fossil fuels even further: from 2027 battery-makers will need to recover 90% of nickel and cobalt used, rising to 95% in 2031. They would also need to recover 50% of lithium used in 2027, rising to 80% in 2031.
Marieke Hoffmann, expert for circular economy at Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH), said: “The necessary shift to e-mobility will lead to an enormous demand for resources in the coming years. Although the Batteries Regulation will contribute to reducing the environmental impacts, there is still a need for action. We have to set good conditions for the longer use of vehicle batteries now by guaranteeing high durability, reparability and reuse. For example, discarded vehicle batteries should be reused as stationary power stations. Such scenarios must now be taken into account to avoid a lack of spare parts or limited software access later. We call on the EU Commission to close these remaining gaps in the legislation.”
The effectiveness of the EU Batteries Regulation will, in practice, depend on the implementing rules that are to be agreed next. T&E and DUH regret that draft new carbon footprint rules – due to be finalised by the end of 2023 – could allow greenwashing whereby battery producers would only need to disclose Guarantees of Origin to prove that their energy is renewable. Both environmental organisations are calling for stricter rules to incentivise the use of Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).