Visual: own canva design, picture of woman by Andrea Piacquadio
EU institutions have agreed on a new battery directive for more sustainable batteries and we have been able to see the approved text, even though it has not been published yet. The full text includes substantial changes in the ways batteries will have to be manufactured, serviced and disposed of. The directive will cover portable batteries and light means of transport. Our comments focus on battery replaceability and reparability aspects.
We celebrate the progress on batteries availability and software
With this new regulation, all new products put on the market will have to have replaceable batteries: in many cases users will have to be able to replace them themselves. Also, batteries will become available as spare parts for 5 years after placing the last unit of the model on the market. While this is a very important step, it remains to be seen whether they will be sold at a reasonable price for independent operators and end users. So far, EU legislation still fails to address the affordability of repair.
We also celebrate the ban of the unfair practice of part-pairing, a software trick hindering part replacement, banned from the EU market – at least for batteries. As per the new EU directive software shall not be used to prevent the replacement of a portable battery, including in light means of transport or of their key components with another compatible battery or key components. This is something that the Right to Repair campaign has been asking for for a long time and we hope to see this level of ambition for other spare parts as well very soon.
We regret long delays and exceptions
The entry into force for battery removability requirements will be 42 months after the entry into force of the whole directive. This means no sooner than mid-2026 or potentially even 2027 – technically in 4 years from now! Plus, this will of course only apply to new models put on the market by then, so it won’t impact any product we already own. It’s a shame as in previous drafts, the delay was 24 months, a year and a half less.
We also deplore the exemptions for products used in wet conditions: the directive won’t require designs with user-replaceable batteries for devices like electric toothbrushes, and potentially wearable ones too. This exemption is based on unfounded safety claims, as there are many products already on the market operating in wet conditions with easy to replace batteries, such as toothbrushes, shavers, e-bikes, power tools, underwater flashlights.
However, it is important to note that even for the products affected by these exemptions, batteries will need to be replaceable by independent professional repairers. This means no more product designs with batteries embedded to an extent to make their removal impossible.
For light means of transport, the batteries will only need to be removable by independent professionals (and not by end users) but the requirements include the battery cells, meaning that batteries will also become repairable. There is the possibility for further derogations in future delegated acts. The campaign will keep watching out for industry pushback and fight for our right to repair.
Why should we care about battery removability and replaceability?
The short answer is: to empower consumers, save resources and boost the repair economy in the EU. Considering that 42% of smartphone repairs are battery replacements, it’s easy to understand why batteries are highly environmentally impactful. Recent trends of embedding batteries in products have often resulted in impossible to remove batteries. This clearly drives up expenditure and waste.
For example, ensuring that all new phones and tablets sold in the EU in 2030 have easily removable and replaceable batteries has the potential to:
- Reduce the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the devices by 30% compared to business as usual. Over the average lifetime of these devices emission reductions would be equivalent to providing electricity to 1.4 million EU homes for one year.
- Decrease the total consumer expenditure by 19.8 billion euros as a result of reducing the unnecessary replacement of devices by 39 million units in 2030.
- Reduce losses of critical raw materials like cobalt, rare earth elements, and indium.
Read more about the environmental benefits of replaceable batteries in our report.
The latest official announcement of the European Parliament: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20221205IPR60614/batteries-deal-on-new-eu-rules-for-design-production-and-waste-treatment
Press briefing by the European Environmental Bureau: