This afternoon the Environment Committee of the European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted an ambitious report on the European Battery Regulation (74 to 8). This is an important hurdle towards establishing much awaited laws which will apply to all batteries sold on the European market. 

Although covering a wide number of issues, the regulation is also expected to support a right to replace and repair batteries in consumer electronics.

Existing legislation for batteries does not explicitly address lithium batteries, despite them quickly becoming the dominant battery chemistry and leaving behind a vast environmental footprint. Lithium batteries are found in everything from smartphones to scooters, electric cars and energy storage for smart grids. 

In this sense, while batteries are an essential tool in energy transition they also have a huge hidden cost. 

The report voted on today at the European Parliament covers many aspects related to the value chain associated with batteries, such as sustainable sourcing and due diligence, the carbon footprint from manufacturing, collection, recycling and the use of recycled content, as well as clear labelling. 

From the perspective of repair the report crucially mandates the user replaceability of batteries in all consumer electronics and light means of transport. In other wods, this means banning integrated batteries in consumer electronics. Possible exemptions to this rule will be defined at a later date. It also calls for the replaceability of battery cells in e-bike and scooter battery packs by independent repairers, as well as preventing the use of software to block the replacement of batteries or other key components. 

Instructions on how to replace batteries should also be made available permanently online. 

Although the provisions on replacement and repair do not include provisions on making batteries or their components available as spare parts yet, the fact this legislation will touch all battery powered electronics could be a huge step towards more repairable products. 

The next stage of the process is negociations between the Council and the Parliament on their respective amendements to the Commission’s initial proposal with the objective to reach broad consensus on a draft regulation, which will go for a final vote expected later in 2022. 

Early drafts from the European Council look much weaker when it comes to battery replaceability. If it is serious about its pledges and commitments to circular economy, France, who now has the Presidency of the Council, will need to step up its game and push other European countries to increase their ambition on this topic.

In our report published earlier this year, we found that too many batteries are either non-replaceable or non-repairable resulting in shorter product lifetime, increased electronic waste, loss of critical raw materials and unnecessary expenditure for consumers.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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