Batteries: the automotive industry asks EU for practical standards and more flexibility

  Fuels, NEWS & INTERVIEWS, Sustainable Mobility, Technical innovation

The Association of European Car Manufacturers agrees with the objectives proposed by the Commission but highlights in a report the risk of multiplying regulations which in turn could slow down innovation and decarbonisation in the sector

More flexibility is needed to prepare car builders and supply chains appropriately for the new electrical vehicle battery standards proposed by the European Commission, as well as avoiding the risk of multiplying regulations. This emerged from a report published last 6 October by the Association of European Car Manufacturers (Acea). Acea states in the document that the proposed European electrical vehicle battery regulation will play a central role in the future decarbonisation of internal combustion vehicles. However, the Association also suggests that the Commission’s current proposal suffer from several shortcomings that may hamper the innovation potential of European car manufacturers, leading to a slowdown in the electrification process and therefore compromising the EU’s climate objectives”. The increase and extension of requirements could also undermine current efforts to improve the accessibility of electrical vehicles for European citizens and thereby have the undesirable consequence of preventing rapid renewal of the electric vehicle fleet.

Batteries must become durable, efficient and safe,” said Acea. “We welcome the fact that the European Commission has recognized that specific requirements must be reviewed on their implementation in order to determine their appropriateness.” Nevertheless, the document goes on, “unwieldy dual regulations should be avoided” and there should be greater flexibility to prepare producers and supply chains correctly”. Acea believes that “manufacturers must have the right to organize waste management for their products”.

The Acea document also includes some recommendations, such those ensuring viable implementation of the standards; promote existing international standards; develop a standardized test for the state of battery health; use resources efficiently to promote circularity in all value chains; clarify the roles and responsibilities of manufacturers in extended producer responsibility (Epr); consider other carbon footprint calculation methods; avoid dual regulations for reuse and re-generation requirements; review information and reporting requirements; acknowledge work in progress relating to due diligence; use consistent definitions for the collection of spent batteries; consider the impact of the provisions on green public procurement; maintain the two kilowatt hour threshold for electric vehicle batteries; review the definition of automotive batteries.

The Commission presented a proposal on 10 December 2020 for battery and resulting waste regulations which repeals Directive 2006/66/EC. The proposal has three objectives: strengthen the functioning of the internal market (including products, processes, waste batteries and recycled materials), while ensuring a level playing field through a set of common standards; promote a circular economy and reduce environmental and social impacts in all stages of the battery life cycle. The proposed regulation would include mandatory requirements for all batteries marketed in the European Union, namely portable batteries, automotive batteries, electric vehicle batteries and industrial batteries.

These requirements concern sustainability and safety, as well as labelling and information, taking in a wide range of aspects: restrictions on the use of hazardous substances, especially mercury and cadmium; standards for the carbon footprint; mandatory recycled content objectives for cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel; performance and durability parameters; removal and replacement features for portable device batteries; safety of fixed battery energy storage systems. The proposal also includes requirements battery end of life cycle management. For example, set new goals for portable battery waste collection (65% in 2025 and 70% in 2030), and define requirements to facilitate the reuse of industrial batteries and electrical vehicles as stationary energy accumulators. It also defines obligations for economic operators associated with product requirements and due diligence schemes and envisages the creation of an electronic battery information exchange system, with the creation of a “Battery Passport”. The proposal also contains provisions concerning mandatory public green procurement tenders, the evaluation of compliance, notification of conformity assessment entities, market vigilance and economic instruments.