On 10 December 2020, the European Commission published a proposal for a new EU Regulation concerning batteries and waste batteries ("Battery Regulation"). The Battery Regulation is part of the European Green Deal and aims to facilitate the reuse, recycling and remanufacturing of batteries. Due to the Battery Regulation, new legal and technical obligations will be imposed on manufacturers. In particular, the Battery Regulation is part of the CE-marking regime in the European Union, which means that manufacturers shall carry out a conformity assessment and put a CE-marking on their batteries before placing them on the European market.
Subject matter and scope of the Draft Battery Regulation
As part of the so-called European Green Deal, the EU's new Battery Regulation aims to improve the sustainability and safety of all batteries placed on the European market throughout their entire life cycle. Therefore, Art. 1 Para. 1 of the Battery Regulations stipulates the following:
"This Regulation establishes requirements on sustainability, safety, labelling and information to allow the placing on the market or putting into service of batteries, as well as requirements for the collection, treatment and recycling of waste batteries."
The scope of the Battery Regulation is quite broad. Art. 1 Para. 2 of the Battery Regulation stipulates the following:
"This Regulation shall apply to all batteries, namely portable batteries, automotive batteries, electric vehicle batteries and industrial batteries, regardless of their shape, volume, weight, design, material composition, use or purpose. It shall also apply to batteries incorporated in or added to other products."
According to its scope, the Battery Regulation is applicable for all different kinds of batteries. The Battery Regulation is for example applicable for portable batteries such as 'normal' household batteries like batteries in alarm clocks and in remote controls, e.g. for the TV, as well as for bigger batteries such as automotive batteries, electric vehicle batteries and industrial batteries in the B2B sector. Nevertheless please note, that there are certain exceptions. In particular, the Battery Regulation shall not apply to batteries in equipment connected with the protection of Member States' essential security interests, arms, munitions and war material that is intended for specifically military purposes and equipment designed to be sent into space.
Main provision – CE-marking obligation and conformity assessment
Probably the most far-reaching change created by the Battery Regulation will be the implementation of a conformity assessment and a CE-marking obligation for manufacturers. Basically speaking, batteries have not been affected by a CE-marking obligation so far. In particular, by now, there is generally no specific legislation requiring a CE-marking and a conformity assessment for batteries. Only under certain circumstances, if a battery falls within the scope of a specific harmonization legislation such as EMC, LVD, REACH and/or RoHS, batteries might be subject to a CE-marking obligation. These rules and exceptions will now completely be changed under the Battery Regulation. The Battery Regulation generally requires a conformity assessment procedure and a CE-marking for all batteries before putting them on the European market. In doing so, Art. 17 Para. 1 of the Battery Regulation stipulates the following:
"Before a battery is placed on the market or put it into service, the manufacturer or its authorised representative shall ensure that an assessment of the product’s conformity with the requirements of Chapters II and III of this Regulation is carried out."
In addition, regarding the CE-marking, Art. 20 Para. 1 of the Battery Regulation stipulates the following:
"The CE marking shall be affixed visibly, legibly and indelibly to the battery. Where that is not possible or not warranted due to the nature of the battery, it shall be affixed to the packaging and to the documents accompanying the battery."
In addition to the implementation of CE conformity for batteries, there will be further changes to the current legal situation with additional obligations for manufacturers. Please find some of the additional obligations below:
- Electric vehicle batteries and rechargeable industrial batteries with internal storage and a capacity above 2 kWh shall be accompanied by a carbon footprint declaration. This carbon footprint declaration requirement shall generally apply as of 1 July 2024.
- In order to avoid an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment, the Battery Regulation stipulates additional hazardous substances such as mercury and cadmium that are restricted in batteries under certain conditions.
- From 1 January 2030, industrial batteries, electric vehicle batteries and automotive batteries with internal storage and a capacity above 2 kWh shall contain a specific percentage of recycled materials. In doing so, batteries shall contain at least 12 % cobalt, 85 % lead, 4 % lithium and 4 % nickel recovered from waste. These specific percentage values of materials recovered from waste increase due to passage of time.
- By 1 January 2026, each industrial battery and electric vehicle battery whose capacity is higher than 2 kWh shall have and electronic record, a so-called battery passport. The battery passport shall be identified through a unique identifier that economic operators shall print or engrave on the battery.
- Purchasers, third parties acting on their behalf as well as independent operators shall have access to the data stored on the battery management system of rechargeable industrial batteries and electric vehicle batteries with internal storage and capacity above 2 kWh. Manufacturers shall ensure to provide access to determine the state of health and expected lifetime of batteries.
Impact and forecast
The Battery Regulation will have a huge impact on many manufacturers, importers and distributors. Because of the new harmonization legislation, many manufacturers will have to amend and update their product conformity processes, particularly ensuring a proper CE-marking conformity assessment procedure.
Currently, the draft Battery Regulation is in the so-called trilogue, i.e., the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament can (still) suggest amendments to the proposal by the European Commission.
As the impact on many companies and their businesses in the EU will be significant, it is generally advisable to closely monitor and already prepare for the upcoming new Battery Regulation. This is particularly true because battery technology development and the underlying legal conformity assessments are often lengthy and time-consuming processes.