The European Parliament and Council earlier this month reached an agreement that will require portable devices to have user-replaceable batteries.

The proposed EU legislation covers all types of batteries sold in the EU including portable batteries, SLI batteries (supplying power for starting, lighting or ignition of vehicles), light means of transport (LMT) batteries (electric scooters and bikes etc), electric vehicle (EV) batteries and even industrial batteries.

If the legislation passes, it will mean that manufacturers have three and half years to redevelop their portable devices and vehicles to allow consumers and users to easily remove and replace their batteries.

Image credit: Bolt

Battery replacement

The EU said that the legislation includes stronger requirements to make batteries more sustainable and durable.

According to the deal, a carbon footprint declaration and label will be obligatory for EV batteries, LMT batteries and rechargeable industrial batteries with a capacity above 2kWh.

To better inform consumers, batteries will carry labels and QR codes with information related to their capacity, performance, durability, chemical composition, as well as the “separate collection” symbol.

LMT batteries, industrial batteries with a capacity above 2 kWh and EV batteries will also be required to have a “digital battery passport” including information on the battery model as well as information specific to the individual battery and its use.

The legislation also sets minimum levels of recycled materials for batteries: 16 percent for cobalt, 85 percent for lead, 6 percent for lithium and 6 percent for nickel.

And to ensure that proper battery recycling is also covered, the proposed EU legislation will require that old batteries are collected: at least 45 percent of old batteries must be collected (free of charge) by 2023, 63 percent by 2027 and 73 percent by 2030 for portable batteries.

However for LMT batteries the numbers are 51 percent by 2028 and 61 percent by 2031.

“For the first time, we have circular economy legislation that covers the entire life cycle of a product – this approach is good for both the environment and the economy,” noted Rapporteur Achille Variati (S&D, IT).

“We agreed on measures that greatly benefit consumers: batteries will be well-functioning, safer and easier to remove,” said Variati. “Our overall aim is to build a stronger EU recycling industry, particularly for lithium, and a competitive industrial sector as a whole, which is crucial in the coming decades for our continent’s energy transition and strategic autonomy. These measures could become a benchmark for the entire global battery market.”

The next step for the EU Parliament and Council are to formally approve the agreement before it can come into force.

It comes after the European Commission in December 2020 had presented a proposal for a regulation on batteries and waste batteries. The initiative is closely linked to the European Green Deal, the Circular Economy Action Plan and the New Industrial Strategy.

Notable wins

The EU has enjoyed some notable wins lately, with its legislation forcing the tech industry to make major changes.

Last week Apple confirmed that it was preparing to allow alternative app stores on its iPhones and iPads and side-loading of apps, as part of a sweeping overhaul aimed at complying with strict European Union requirements coming in 2024.

That massive change to Apple’s notoriously closed ecosystem is being developed so that Apple compiles the EU requirements set out in the Digital Markets and Services Act agreed in March this year.

The second win came after the European Union in October 2022 finally agreed a common (or universal) charging standard (USB-C) for all mobile devices. That means that from Autumn 2024, all electronic devices would need to support USB-C charging, and Apple will need to remove its venerable lightning port in its iPhone handsets in the EU.

Soon after that Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing reluctantly told The Wall Street Journal Tech Live conference, “obviously we’ll have to comply.”

Then last week it was confirmed that Apple will have to drop the lightning port, introduced in September 2012 (with the iPhone 5), by 28 December 2024.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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