With the entry into force of the new European Battery Regulation, the regulations for the recycling of batteries will be significantly tightened. In addition, this will contain various new and stricter requirements for products. Storage Magazine spoke to our product liability lawyer, Martin Krüger, about the implications of the European Battery Regulation. Not only are these numerous, but he believes they will have a profound impact on the market and the battery chain. “The consequences for companies are significant”. Please find enclosed the Dutch and English version of his interview in “Storage Magazine”.
Dutch attorney about the European Battery Regulation
NEW EUROPEAN BATTERY REGULATION: “LANDSLIDE IN SLOW MOTION”.
Martin Krüger is a product compliance and company lawyer in the Netherlands and co-founder of MAAK Advocaten in Amsterdam. He is an expert in product regulations and contracts and related disputes in the Netherlands. One of the issues he has been following closely in this context for years is that of batteries, which is currently undergoing a transformation. A new European battery regulation is on its way. According to him, this will fundamentally change the battery market. But first, he puts this development in the context of the natural evolution of European politics.
FROM THE BATTERY DIRECTIVE TO THE BATTERY REGULATION
Level playing field
“The battery directive has been around since 2006,” says Krüger. That was long before electric bikes and cars were seen on the roads everywhere. It focused mainly on battery recycling requirements. As with any European directive, member states had to transpose it into national laws and regulations. Differences in implementation can then lead to different regulations in each country, and this case was no different. For this reason, when revising legislation, the EU Commission is increasingly opting for regulations that do not have to be transposed into national law, are therefore more uniform and consequently ensure a level playing field for countries and companies. This is now also happening with regard to batteries and spent batteries.”
Total life cycle
European policy is strongly focused on halting climate change, in particular by accelerating the energy transition. This effort is currently taking on an additional dimension, with calls for autonomy in energy supply growing louder due to geopolitical developments. Some time ago, the EU classified batteries as a critical technology and is promoting the creation of a European battery chain – from development and production to the reuse of products and raw materials. All this is reflected in the new battery regulation. The draft regulation was proposed by the EU Commission as part of the Green Deal and contains requirements for the entire life cycle of batteries. In March 2022, both the European Parliament and the European Council discussed the concept, making the contours clearer.
Legal advice in the Netherlands about the European Battery Regulation
Krüger says:”An initial draft regulation was published in late 2020, but subsequent criticism during inspection and response rounds was unstoppable and continued to grow as work on the draft progressed. Among the concerns were the new requirements for reuse. Regulations in this area are becoming clearer and stricter, which means that the room for maneuver is shrinking in this respect. In addition, the inclusion of product requirements poses major challenges for the market. This tension is reflected in the reactions of the European Parliament and the European Council: the former focuses more on sustainability efforts, the latter also on the feasibility of the transition, including from a market perspective. The next phase will involve negotiations to arrive at a final version of the regulation.”
On March 7 of this year, the current draft of the European Battery Regulation was discussed in the European Parliament and on March 17 in the European Council. Both confirmed the main objectives. In this way, work can be done towards a final draft that will eventually be adopted by the European Commission. In Krüger’s experience, a lot can still change during the negotiations. In anticipation, he explains some interesting “highlights,” starting with the requirements for removability and replaceability of batteries from appliances.
Many products such as phones and e-bikes have built-in batteries that are difficult or impossible to remove and replace with new ones. This era will most likely come to an end with the new European legislation. This represents a major step toward sustainability and reuse. But it also means a significant intervention at the planning level. This has a huge impact on many manufacturers of electrical equipment, so it is not surprising that this was one of the main issues in the lobby of the various industries. They argued for less stringent requirements in this area so as not to hinder market development. However, it looks like this will now happen after all, subject to a transition period, of course.
Reuse of raw materials
“Another interesting development concerns the market for the reuse of raw materials,” says Krüger. In the future, new batteries will have to contain a certain percentage of recycled materials. This, of course, has significant consequences for battery manufacturers. The same applies to importers; they are not allowed to put products on the European market that do not comply with European regulations, and this system will not be abandoned for batteries. Europe currently sources the majority of its batteries from China. Europe remains a large and growing market, and the standards we set here tend to spread to other parts of the world. In addition, this requirement offers new opportunities for the emergence of an innovative European battery and recycling industry.”
When the new European Battery Regulation comes into force, the rules for recycling batteries will become stricter, for example with regard to collection targets. Currently, the ultimate responsibility for this lies with the manufacturers, and this will not change. The current EU directive for offering (all) batteries for recycling is at least 45%. Success varies from country to country. Countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, for example, achieve a percentage of 45 to 50 percent, while in Belgium the counter is 59 percent by 2020. The draft regulation now stipulates that a collection rate of 70 percent must be achieved 96 months after the regulation comes into force.
Traceability and availability
Krüger: “In addition, the regulation deals with the reuse of the batteries themselves, for example car batteries. In this respect, they must meet certain product requirements. The regulation also introduces five different categories of batteries: Portable batteries, industrial batteries, conventional car batteries, batteries for electric vehicles and light electric vehicles. In addition, the traceability of the history and availability of relevant information about a battery is crucial in this context. This will be facilitated by a digital passport, a label with a QR code and a European information system.
Transition and introduction periods
Krüger emphasizes the fact that the new European battery regulation will have a profound impact on the world of companies operating in the battery industry with a number of other points in the current draft. He mentions careful consideration of environmental aspects and working conditions in the procurement of batteries and a restriction on the use of hazardous substances in products. Other examples include reducing the carbon footprint in the production chain and setting safety requirements, such as maximum loads and the risk of fires and other disasters. In short, we’re talking about a landslide on many fronts,” Krüger says. But it’s a slow-motion landslide. The new European battery regulation is expected to be published in late 2022 or early 2023. There will be transition and phase-in periods; some requirements are said to take a few years, others the next decade. In addition, many of the requirements in the regulation are not really surprising. Many parties are already preparing for it. For those who have not yet dealt with it, however, there is some serious advice: “Do it, and do it quickly. Act and don’t miss the boat”.
Dutch lawyer in the Netherlands specialised in the European BATTERY REGULATION
If you would like advice from a Dutch lawyer specializing in the Battery Regulation, please contact product law attorney in the Netherlands Martin Krüger. He will be happy to help you with any questions you may have about the regulations, commercial contracts and other business challenges.