Battery Law Can Help Europe Become Green Battery Powerhouse

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Originally published on Transport & Environment.
By Pierre Dornier

The European Commission’s proposal for the world’s first ever sustainable battery law can make batteries even cleaner than today and ensure their sourcing is ethical and environmentally responsible, green group Transport & Environment (T&E) has said. It’s now up to MEPs and EU governments to agree an ambitious and future-proof regulation that will drive the development of a competitive and sustainable European battery industry.

“Battery production at Mercedes-Benz subsidiary Accumotive in Kamenz: Production of battery systems of Mercedes-Benz plug-in hybrids. The battery factory relies on state-of-the-art systems and uses a wide range of Industry 4.0 technologies to manufacture drive batteries for models from the product and technology brand EQ.” Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.

Alex Keynes, clean vehicles manager at Transport & Environment, said: “The batteries law will be the first of its kind and comes right on time as electric car sales surge and gigafactories pop up across Europe. Whether produced in the EU or globally, it will ensure batteries used in Europe are even cleaner than today, sourced responsibly and recyclable. If implemented swiftly and with ambition, it will make Europe a world leader in this strategic zero emissions technology.

T&E welcomed the Commission’s proposal to require battery makers to apply the “OECD Due Diligence” guidelines when sourcing materials, devised to respect human rights and ensure ethical supply chains. It means companies would have to fix any problems found in their supply chains that are contributing to human or labour rights abuses, notably in conflict zones, or be banned from the EU market.

Battery-makers will also have to report on the carbon footprint of the whole value chain, from mining to battery production to recycling — data which will then be used to set maximum CO2 footprint for batteries that will incentivise use of clean energy in their production.

However, the obligation, by 2030, to recover only 70% of lithium from used batteries, when around 90% is already shown to be best practice today, sets the bar too low. T&E said it is insufficient to drive the investment and innovation Europe’s battery recycling sector needs to lead in this strategic technology.

Alex Keynes added “Recycling of key battery materials allows producers to keep pace with growing demand without increasing mining activities. It will also bring jobs and new companies across the recycling value chain in Europe. But the proposed recycling rates for lithium for 2030 are below even today’s best practice, hardly enough to secure Europe’s lead. MEPs and governments should revise them upwards.

Despite the pandemic, electric vehicles sales have surged since January and will reach over 10% of overall car sales in the EU this year and 15% in 2021.

Related: Annexes to the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Councilconcerning batteries and waste batteries, repealing Directive 2006/66/EC and amending Regulation (EU) No 2019/1020

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