EU battery plan can only succeed if there is strong market for electric vehicles in Europe

An action plan to drive the production, reuse and recycling of lithium-ion batteries in the EU has been published by the European Commission. T&E has welcomed the strategy, but says parallel measures to ensure carmakers sell a minimum number of electric vehicles are needed if Europe is to make the most out of the economic potential of electric cars.

 

Even though battery electric vehicles still make up less than 2% of Europe’s total car fleet, sales are expected to surge over the next 5-10 years. In fact, the EU needs  this EV surge to decarbonise transport and meet its climate goals. And the Commission wants European companies to profit from the economic benefits of the growing market for car batteries – currently worth around €250 billion a year.

The strategic action plan was presented by the Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič (pictured). In particular it seeks to encourage investment in research, and secure sustainable access to the raw materials needed to produce batteries – mainly precious metals, some of which have environmental and social issues surrounding their extraction. The plan also envisages setting requirements on safe and sustainable batteries, and developing a skilled European workforce.

T&E’s clean vehicles manager, Julia Poliscanova, said: ‘The battery strategy is welcome, and it now has to be swiftly implemented. But we also have to remember gigafactories don’t get built on promises alone. EU lawmakers need to provide certainty to investors by introducing a target for EV sales to get carmakers serious about ramping up EVs in Europe. If we get this right, together with strict standards of CO2 regulation for cars, the EU will be in a good position to reap the benefits of the battery revolution, and help shape an industry based on responsibly sourced materials that are reused and recycled.’

Up to now, most battery production has been in Asia, with China the world’s leading country producing e-vehicle batteries. Some 88% of global production coming from China, Japan and South Korea combined. However, in the last 12 months at least four projects for battery cell production – in Sweden, Germany, Poland and Hungary – have got underway in Europe.

CO2 emissions limits for new cars for 2025 and 2030 are currently being finalised; the stricter the CO2 limit, the greater the incentive to develop e-vehicles. The EU’s first obligatory CO2 standard came into effect in 2015 (130g per km) and the current target for 2021 is 95g.