RECHARGE Assessment of European Commission Proposal for Batteries Regulation 2020/353
The advanced rechargeable and lithium batteries value chain in Europe, as represented by RECHARGE, welcomes the European Commission's Batteries Regulation proposal 2020/353 (COD), in short Batteries Regulation, as the next step in delivering on the 2018 Strategic Action Plan on Batteries and, thus, working towards the common goal of setting the standard for sustainable, innovative and competitive batteries made in Europe.
Repealing the current batteries framework, the Batteries Regulation proposal better recognizes the strategic role of batteries for decarbonization, strategic autonomy and societal prosperity, and generally incorporates important updates as concerns today’s market structures. The latter refers to battery segments and battery chemistries likewise. At RECHARGE, we welcome that the Regulation has the clear objective of creating coherence with other EU policy areas and regulatory frameworks, particularly with those pieces of legislation that were implemented after the initial Batteries Directive.
RECHARGE especially welcomes the inclusion of new key sustainability pillars as an important step forward:
The requirement to calculate and report the carbon footprint of electric vehicle batteries and certain rechargeable industrial batteries
The mandatory setup of supply chain due diligence programs on corporate social responsibility performance
The creation of an electronic battery passport for electric vehicle batteries and certain industrial batteries
The introduction of a green public procurement mechanism
Social due diligence and carbon intensity measures are paramount to the further development of the European battery sector as well as to the overarching climate-neutrality and industrial leadership objectives of the EU. At RECHARGE, we believe that article 7 and article 39 have the potential to strengthen batteries that have been designed and manufactured with the highest environmental and social conditions in place – provided that these requirements and their scope are correctly implemented.
Also, RECHARGE wants to stress the importance of the modernization of the current batteries framework and transforming it into a European-wide regulation. This is a key step to ensure a high degree of predictability and clarity for economic operators. European investment as well as cutting-edge innovation and product development will depend on such level of certainty for many years to come.
However, despite relevant updates and innovations, the Batteries Regulation proposal does not fully meet its objective of creating a future-proof legislative framework. A high level of complexity and critical overlaps risk jeopardizing the effectiveness of the Commission proposal. It is against this background, that RECHARGE - as the leading group of technical experts - wishes to bring forward proposals for harmonization and simplification:
Industry proposal to draft Batteries Regulation
ENSURE FEASIBLE TIMELINES: Given the strategic importance of the battery industry, a timely yet robust implementation of the new EU rules is crucial for this cornerstone legislation. As a general rule, the Batteries Regulation must include a grandfather clause to distinguish between new models of batteries that fall within the scope of the new requirements as created by the Batteries Regulation and products such as legacy spare parts or battery models introduced to the market before the entry into force of this Regulation. Also, certain deadlines between the proposed Batteries Regulation and the respective implementing acts pose a real challenge to compliance. This is especially the case for establishing the technically challenging calculation methodologies for the carbon footprint, the recycled content or for the new recycling efficiencies – all subject to an early declaration obligation. We recommend that all provisions directly or indirectly impacting the production process require a minimum 24-month transition phase for proper implementation at manufacturing line level.
STRENGTHEN ENFORCEMENT AND LEVEL PLAYING FIELD: To ensure the effectiveness of the European battery rules, RECHARGE recommends incorporating a dedicated paragraph on enforcement and the necessary resources required at Member State level to sufficiently execute enforcement measures for EU and imported products alike. Several articles are prone to become paper tigers without relevant enforcement. In addition, for the Batteries Regulation to successfully set the standard for environmentally and socially responsible batteries, all actors – inside or outside the European Union – must be subject to the same requirements. Therefore, third-party auditing bodies, as applicable under article 39 (3b) for example, that are based outside the European Union, shall ensure to apply the same standards - and potentially require an accreditation at EU level.
HOLD HIGH THE INDUSTRY’S EXTENSIVE SAFETY APPROACH: The draft Batteries Regulation introduces wording pertaining to removability, repair and remanufacturing that is of high concern to both the industry and consumer protection organizations. With the goal of upholding the industry’s comprehensive safety proposition, we, therefore, call upon European policymakers to refrain from any wording in the final Batteries Regulation that would encourage unqualified persons to remove, replace, repair or remanufacture a battery, and that contradicts existing safety standards. Ultimately, any battery – first or second use – should be subject to the same safety standards.
HARMONIZE OVERLAPPING PROVISIONS WITH OTHER REGULATORY FRAMEWORKS: The Batteries Regulation has the clear objective of creating coherence with other regulatory frameworks. RECHARGE encourages EU policymakers to give priority to overarching, horizontal legislation, such as the existing chemicals management framework under REACH and OSH for example. The Batteries Regulation should not create another layer of complexity by introducing a REACH-like restriction mechanism for battery substances only. The assessment of substances used in batteries should remain subject to the horizontal chemicals management framework. In view of the opportunities created by the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, we call upon the European Commission to work towards a holistic chemicals management regime based on a robust risk management approach, including regulatory management option analysis (RMOA) and a socio-economic impact assessment.
HARMONIZE OVERLAPPING PROVISIONS WITHIN THE BATTERIES REGULATION: We welcome that the Batteries Regulation is an ambitious piece of legislation, with the potential to support an equally ambitious value chain in the transition to a sustainability-focused market structure. Certain provisions risk creating over-regulation and unnecessary overlaps, however. As an example, the Batteries Regulation proposal features extensive waste management actions, such as second life, recycling efficiency targets, material recovery targets and a recycled content obligation. While all battery chemistries are suitable for recycling and European research and innovation greatly focuses on driving recycling processes, circular economy measures should not overburden the industry, should take into consideration best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC) and must not create contradicting conditions. A successful battery waste management scheme reflects the fast-paced, innovative profile of batteries and battery-containing equipment. Flexible solutions are expected to create greater effectiveness than too stringent - or overlapping - measures that risk blocking the market. We also call for harmonized, streamlined and largely digitized information, labelling, declaration and auditing provisions
REDUCE COMPLEXITY BY FOCUSING ON REAL-BENEFIT PROVISIONS: Batteries have been subject to a comprehensive regulatory framework since 2006. It is in this context, that RECHARGE promotes new legislative measures that bring a true benefit to the existing framework. The objective of the Batteries Regulation must be to work towards essential policy targets instead of creating an environment of control and obligations. Unfortunately, several provisions do not withstand the effectiveness test under real-world conditions. For example, in a fast-paced, innovative industry, performance and durability criteria are likely to stall product development and hamper the necessary flexibility to meet the specific needs of different products and applications. A number of design criteria would even contradict design requirements, such as lifetime obligations in areas where fast charge is needed.
REDUCE COMPLEXITY FOR NICHE AND SMALL-SERIES BATTERIES: Certain measures create a disproportionate administrative and cost burden on niche or small-series batteries that are produced in only a few thousand units per year, designed to meet very specific application needs and often must be brought onto the market within weeks. Especially the scope of articles 7, 8, 59 and 65 – that were clearly established around the profile of mass-volume (EV) batteries - must be limited in view of the unique profile of these batteries. Similarly challenging is article 57 for several (niche) battery technologies. The recycling efficiency for lithium-based batteries and, respectively, certain material recovery targets are too technology-specific to be operationally achievable for all battery chemistries. The economic burden of complying with article 57 would basically drive such chemistries off the market.
For more information
Download here the full position paper, including our proposals for all relevant articles.
For an overview, visit our dedicated Batteries Regulation page.