The Battery Regulation results in an extension of manufacturers’ responsibility.
After a long legislative process, Parliament and Council have agreed on the new Battery Regulation 2023/1542, which will be directly applicable throughout the European Union from the beginning of 2024. For manufacturers in particular, this will result in extended due diligence requirements with regard to the sustainability, safety and labelling of batteries in the EU. The following article presents the most important innovations.
Objectives and application of the Battery Regulation
As part of the implementation of the Green Deal, Parliament and Council agreed on the final content of the new Battery Regulation on 12 July 2023, in order to advance the implementation of a sustainable circular economy in the EU. Among other things, the Battery Regulation pursues the objective of comprehensive harmonisation of the regulatory framework for batteries in the EU.
After the entry into force of the Battery Regulation on 17 August 2023 and a transition period of 6 months, it will apply directly in all EU member states 18 February 2024. For a large number of provisions, a later or staggered start of validity is envisaged. On 18 August 2025, the previously applicable Battery Directive 2006/66/EC will be repealed.
Covered battery categories and addressed economic operators
The material scope of application of the Battery Regulation continues to cover all batteries – regardless of their shape, weight, volume, material composition or use – that are placed on the market or put into service in the EU. The scope of application further corresponds to a holistic approach to cover the entire life cycle of a battery. The Battery Regulation addresses all economic operators that come into contact with batteries along their value chain. Thus, not only producers, but also their authorised representatives, importers, distributors and so-called fulfilment service providers are targeted by the Battery Regulation.
Innovations also result from the introduction of further battery categories, which leads to a new classification of batteries with corresponding obligations of the economic operators. In addition to the existing categories of “portable batteries”, “industrial batteries” and “starter, lighting and ignition batteries”, “electric vehicle batteries” and “light means of transport batteries” are introduced. Electric vehicle batteries are those used to power road vehicles. Light means of transport batteries (so-called “LMT batteries”) will in future include batteries for e‑bikes and e‑scooters, for example.
Increase in transparency requirements and extended obligations of economic operators
The classification into a battery category has particular relevance for the transparency standards to be met. Thus, all electric vehicle batteries, rechargeable industrial batteries with a capacity greater than 2 kWh and LMT batteries must be provided with a declaration of their carbon footprint and be labelled accordingly.
The catalogue of obligations to be fulfilled, the scope or gradual application of which – depending on the economic operator concerned – corresponds to the latter’s proximity to production, has been expanded. This now ranges, among other things, from proper design in compliance with substance limits and the implementation of the conformity assessment procedure to the provision of operating instructions and safety information as well as correct labelling and documentation. In particular, requirements for the performance and durability of batteries, specifications for the minimum content of recycled materials and minimum quantities of materials recovered from waste batteries have been added.
Extended labelling obligations
In the future, batteries must also be CE marked. In addition to the CE marking, pictograms or other markings may also be affixed to indicate risks, usages or hazards associated with use, storage, handling or transport.
In addition, the battery must visibly and legibly indicate, among other things, the producer, battery model, place and date of production, weight, charging capacity, obligation for separate collection as well as hazardous and critical raw materials contained. From 18 February 2027, all batteries must be marked with a QR code that can be used to access – depending on the battery category –, among other things, the declaration of conformity or the battery passport.
Battery manufacturers will continue to be responsible for battery collection and recycling; the consumer shall not incur any costs as a result thereof. In the interest of improving recycling rates, the Battery Regulation sets stricter collection targets. The minimum levels of recycled cobalt, lead, lithium and nickel from waste batteries will be gradually increased by 2031 to between 80% and 95%, depending on the specific substance. Likewise, the minimum content of recycled raw materials for reuse in new batteries will be raised.
The digital battery passport is on its way!
The introduction of the digital battery passport for certain battery categories (light means of transport batteries, industrial batteries with a capacity greater than 2 kWh and electric vehicle batteries) aims to enable an extensive exchange of information. The digital battery passport is to contain a wide range of information, including, among other things, the battery’s service life, charging capacity, material composition and recycled content. Comprehensive access to further information, e.g. on disassembly and part numbers of spare parts, shall be given to companies such as repair stores or 2nd life users, while access by the general public shall be limited to basic information.
Introduction of due diligence requirements
The Battery Regulation now also includes far-reaching supply chain due diligence requirements for economic operators. Economic operators with an annual turnover of at least 40 million euros net that place batteries on the market or put them into service must, among other things, be able to implement a management system and carry out a risk assessment, as well as demonstrate compliance with their due diligence obligations.
Facilitate removal, extend service life, avoid new purchases
In principle, consumers should be enabled to remove batteries using commercially available tools. Batteries must be available to professionals and end users for replacement at reasonable prices for at least 5 years from the date of purchase of the appliance. This shall not apply to appliances which are regularly exposed to splashing water, water streams or water immersion. Here, a derogation from the replaceability requirement may apply to the extent that replacement must be possible only for professionals, not for end users. This will have far-reaching consequences for all appliances with permanently bonded batteries, such as laptops or headphones, which up to now have always had to be disposed of due to the lack of replacement options. Parallels can be seen here with the planned Ecodesign Regulation (we already reported on this) and other regulations planned as part of the Sustainable Product Initiative, such as the introduction of the right to repair .
It remains to be seen to what extent producers will (be able to) take advantage of the derogations and whether corresponding tightening will follow in delegated legal acts. The regulations on the replaceability of batteries will be binding as of February 2027. Regulations on sanctions for violations of the Battery Regulation are not part of the Battery Regulation itself, but are still to be enacted by the EU member states.