European Battery Regulation: a Concrete Step towards a Sustainable Future
14/03/2023 – All about lithium batteries, Blog, News
New battery directive: the European Regulation will be published on May 2023 with the aim of improving technological progress of batteries and lowering their impact on the environment
Circular economy and green economy are two buzzwords that are being used in the most diverse production areas nowadays. The battery and accumulator sector is no exception and, to bring it up to par with the improvement model, discussions have been taking place for a long time on introducing an effective, updated and specific European regulation that can guarantee a sustainable value chain.
With this in mind, on 9 December 2022, the European Union, represented by the European Commission, Parliament and Council, reached an agreement on the final text of the new European Battery Regulation, scheduled to be published on May 2023. The objective of the new regulation is to boost technological progress in the battery sector and minimise the impact their production has on the environment. To achieve this objective, it will introduce a number of requirements, measures and specific activities that operators placing any type of battery on the EU market must abide by.
So what’s the current legislative situation in the old world and what are the main points of the new European Battery Regulation? Let’s go over them in detail.
In European countries, the placement in the market of batteries and accumulators, including their collection and end-of-life recycling, is currently regulated by Directive 2006/66/EC. According to this directive, Member States must implement every necessary measure to promote and optimise separate collection, preventing these products from being disposed of as mixed municipal waste.
This led to the set-up of pick-up points close to users, allowing them to drop off the used batteries and accumulators for pick-up by manufacturers free of charge.
However, due to the exponential increase of electric vehicles powered by batteries that are growing more and more advanced and complex in technology, this directive (which applies to all types of batteries, regardless of their chemistry and end use) has become obsolete. It is unfit for today’s technological developments and has not kept pace to adequately regulate the recovery and disposal of latest-generation accumulators.
This is why it has become necessary to replace it with a new regulation suited to the upward trend in battery demand and more aligned with the climate neutrality objectives the EC is pursuing.
The European Union has set a new important objective for the next decades: to boost the circular economy, the sustainability of products and processes, and the support of Europe’s technological progress in the battery sector. To this end, it has decided to introduce the new so-called EU Battery Regulation and give a clear direction towards a regulatory framework for batteries in Europe that can ensure sustainability of the entire value chain over the long term.
Dated 9 December 2022 and awaiting publication, the final text of the regulation was agreed between the European Commission, Parliament and Council. It is a legislative initiative and part of the European Green Deal, a package of proposals by the European Commission to modernise the economy and transform climate, energy, transportation, environment and fiscal policies with the objective of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990 levels by 2030 and reaching climate neutrality by 2050.
Beginning May 2023, the European Battery Regulation will be gradually replacing Directive 2006/66/EC. It will be implemented in all the member countries simultaneously for the common purpose of minimising the harmful effects of batteries on the environment.
For the first time, the new requirements will cover the entire lithium battery life cycle (from extraction of the raw material to production, design, labelling, traceability, collection, recycling and reuse). Batteries will be divided into the following groups, depending on the application for which they are designed:
To ensure the European battery value chain is controlled and has increasingly less impact on the environment, the new European Battery Regulation sets a number of general provisions covering from the technical documentation on the battery, to a precise Environmental Footprint declaration for the accumulators, all the way to the battery recycling policy.
Let’s examine the main ones.
Beginning May 2026, batteries above 2kWh placed in the Union market will be required to be electronically registered. This will be in the form of a Battery Passport carrying an identification QR Code and CE label that will ensure compliance with the safety and traceability requirements of the new European Battery Regulation.
The Battery Passport is basically a digital document that maximises the communication between manufacturers, end users and recycling operators, providing information on the carbon footprint of the battery manufacturing processes and ensuring the traceability of the batteries.
The Battery Passport will include information specific to the batteries placed on the market and their sustainability requirements. It will provide always up-to-date data on battery handling and state of health to recycling operators and those repurposing batteries for a second life.
More specifically, as a genuine identification document, the Battery Passport will be required to store the following information:
To enable consumers, economic operators and other stakeholders to easily access the information and traceability requirements contained in the Battery Passport, the information will be available via a QR Code that must be:
If this is not possible due to the nature and size of the battery, the QR code must be placed on the battery’s packaging and accompanying documents.
Both the Battery Passport and its related QR Code will cease to exist when the battery is recycled, basically because these documents follow the life cycle of their related battery.
Lastly, in addition to the Battery Passport, beginning May 2026, every type of battery placed on the market will also be required to carry the CE mark. This marking is granted by a notified certification body and indicates that the product complies with EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. The mark must be affixed on the battery before its placement on the market and must be visible, legible and indelible (if impracticable, it can be placed on the packaging and accompanying documents, just like the QR Code).
In addition, the CE marking must include the identification number of the certifying body and, where necessary, be accompanied by hazard pictograms or other hazard markings related to battery use, storage, transport and treatment.
To enable the Battery Passport to draw updated information about the health of the batteries and the expected life of each accumulation system to which it is associated, the new proposed European Battery Regulation states that, beginning May 2024, every battery must be equipped with a BMS (Battery Management System). In addition to performing cell balancing, which increases the battery’s lifespan, a BMS can estimate the battery’s State of Charge (SOC) and State of Health (SOH) from the battery’s voltage and current values.
It also states that the information provided by the BMS must be accessible to the natural or juridical person that legally purchased the battery or to third parties. However, the BMS data that can be shared must be better defined in order to limit the operating scope of those having access to the data and thus avoid safety issues, breaches of intellectual property rights and fraud.
Manufacturers with management systems already in place for their batteries will definitely have an easier ride during this transition, because they will be compliant with the requirements of the European Battery Regulation ahead of time thanks to their established technology.
An example is the proprietary Flash Battery BMS, called Flash Balancing System, patented in Italy and with a patent pending in Europe. This intelligent battery management system delivers ultra-fast cell balancing by operating at high power in both active and passive-active mode (20A), representing a great advantage for Flash Battery lithium batteries in terms of charging times, which are short and predictable. What’s more, it provides a comprehensive check of the battery pack, with real-time monitoring of all parameters.
This makes the performance of the battery more stable over time, prevents faults, and makes self-diagnostics and predictive maintenance possible. All in all, this translates into a deeper knowledge of how industrial machines powered by Flash Battery lithium batteries are used and a realistic estimate of the lifespan of the battery on the machine.
In order to assess the carbon footprint of batteries, calculated through the product’s LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), and identify the potential for improvement, the EU Battery Regulation introduced a number of rules and methods for quantifying the Carbon Footprint, the parameter used to estimate the total direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions generated across the entire battery value chain.
Carbon Footprint analysis is a crucial part of the EU Battery Regulation and critical for the development of a circular economy because it is based on a life cycle approach. This concept is fully aligned with the new European environmental strategy and a stark departure from conventional approaches, which focused on analysing the manufacturing part alone.
With this approach, the analysis is extended to the product’s entire life cycle. It begins with the origin of the raw materials and their extraction, takes into account their transport and processing, and also maps out the global impact of post-production activities (distribution, usage stages, repair, replacement, and possible disposal or reuse and recovery in other production processes, when the battery reaches the end of its service life).
All the parties involved along the supply chain all the way to the battery manufacturer’s quality system are going to be called upon to calculate the product’s carbon footprint, which will be assessed together with an independent body that will certify the truthfulness of the information.
Therefore, from May 2024, the Carbon Footprint Declaration will be mandatory for the various battery models and must accompany the product until it becomes accessible via the QR Code. The declaration must report:
According to the European Battery Regulation, from May 2025 economic operators placing batteries on the Union market must develop and implement a “Due Diligence Policy” based on international standards. In this document, manufacturers must clearly outline the strategies and measures they currently have in place to assess and address the social and environmental risks related to the supply, processing and trade of the primary and secondary raw materials going into battery manufacturing.
Each battery manufacturer will be called to do its due diligence by devising and implementing a control process on suppliers in an ongoing, proactive and reactive way to ensure their purchases are not contributing to organisations that deny human rights, fund armed conflicts or encourage the exploitation of cobalt mines (cobalt has a high environmental impact).
The European Battery Regulation aims at promoting the circular economy along the entire battery life cycle and to do this, it has set out end-of-life requirements, including targets and obligations regarding material and waste battery recovery by manufacturers.
To indicate the provisions on their recycling, batteries will be required to carry the crossed-out waste bin symbol from May 2025. This points out that they may not be discarded as unsorted municipal waste but, instead, must be collected separately as WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) by specialised centres.
Moreover, to compensate for the mineral shortage by partly reducing supplies from mineral deposits in favour of secondary sources and avoid as a consequence the carbon dioxide emissions that would result from their transport, the regulation sets the required minimum percentage amount of minerals coming from recycling that batteries in several categories must contain. As soon as May 2028, industrial, electric vehicle and automotive batteries must come with documentation reporting the amount of elements from secondary raw materials.
Commitment to the environment and the sustainability of processes and products is a crucial point of the Flash Battery corporate vision. At the time it was founded in 2012, the company already had a plan for sustainable innovation in the industrial machinery and electric vehicle market, adopting many of the concepts addressed by the EU Battery Regulation.
Efforts in that direction are already in place in the initial lithium battery design and production stages, which incorporate research into increasingly sustainable designs. In fact, we have already removed polluting steps from our manufacturing process and, where possible, use materials from renewable sources. In addition, Flash Battery lithium batteries are made mechanically according to an “agile” design, enabling quick dismantling at the end of their service life thanks to a structure that can be opened easily.
We take into account that our lithium batteries must be recovered at the end of their life as early as the design stage and, in fact, our Research & Development team is always on the lookout for materials that not only offer high performance but are also easily recyclable and have a low environmental impact.
We also took early action in the area of end-of-life battery management. In 2015, to ensure the batteries we place in our domestic market are correctly handled, disposed of and recycled in compliance with the legal requirements of Italian Legislative Decree 188/08 and its amendments, we became members of COBAT, the national consortium for the management and recycling of batteries and accumulators.
And, with the achievement of DNV UNI EN ISO 14001 certification for our Environmental Management system in 2022, we now collaborate with our suppliers to map out the raw materials supply chain.
We have minimum selection criteria already in place based on the legislative principles dictated by the ISO14001 standard and, as an early step towards coming into compliance with the future requirements of the EU Battery Regulation, we are currently implementing a supplier qualification system that relies on more and more stringent environmental parameters and have launched with suppliers shared strategies that can enable us to use materials that have a lower environmental impact than their traditional counterparts yet offer equal performance.
Lastly, in preparation for the Carbon Footprint Declaration for our batteries’ entire value chain, we recently launched a pilot project with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia to calculate the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of our batteries.
In this global context more and more engaged in combating climate change and promoting sustainability policies, the European Battery Regulation is undoubtedly a great step forward for the European Union towards the green economy and the safeguard of the environment. Although it is still in the definition stages, it already stands as an undeniably courageous and potentially revolutionary paradigm shift in our economic model. Much like in other sectors, as a result of this circular economy-based approach the battery sector will be making every effort to design inherently more efficient and sustainable products to do its part in reducing the use of energy and resources and ensuring that needed raw materials are procured in ethically responsible and safe ways.
We are definitely looking forward to the next steps by the European Commission, Council and Parliament and to discovering when the EU Battery Regulation will become official.
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