The EU is on a roll – first it will force smartphones makers to open their devices to third-party app stores from January 2024, then it will make USB-C mandatory for portable electronics starting at the end of 2024, now it has reached a provisional agreement that will require that portable devices have user-replaceable batteries.
The agreement covers batteries of almost all sizes – from portable batteries, Starting, Lighting and Ignition batteries for vehicles (SLI batteries), Light Means of Transport batteries, (LMT, think electric scooters and bikes), Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries and even industrial batteries.
This legislation – if it passes – will give manufacturers 3 and a half years to rework their portable devices in such a way that users can easily remove and replace their batteries.
User-replaceable batteries used to be the norm on smartphones, but these days they are vanishingly rare. For the common bar form factor that should be a relatively easy adaptation – even dust and water resistance are possible as evidenced by Samsung’s recent Xcover phones and similar devices.
The Samsung Galaxy Xcover6 Pro is rated IP68 and MIL-STD-810H – and it has an easily removable battery
Foldable phones may be a challenge, though, as they often feature two separate batteries, one in each “half” to balance space and weight. They are connected with ribbon cables and coming up with a design that allows easy access to users will be tough. The makers will have 3 and a half years to figure it out – again, if and when the legislation is approved by the EU Parliament and Council.
Each battery will be required to carry labels and QR codes that contain information on capacity, performance, durability, chemical composition and a “separate collection” symbol. Also, batteries will have digital passports with information on the general battery model as well as the individual battery.
This agreement was strongly driven by environmental concerns. The plan sets minimum levels of recycled materials for batteries: 16% for cobalt, 85% for lead, 6% for lithium and 6% for nickel.
To feed the recycling process, the EU will require that old batteries are collected: at least 45% of old batteries must be collected (free of charge) by 2023, 63% by 2027 and 73% by 2030 for portable batteries. For LMT batteries the numbers are 51% by 2028 and 61% by 2031.
In fact all other batteries, including EV and industrial, must be collected at no cost to the consumer regardless of their brand, origin and condition. Also, manufacturers selling their products in the EU will be required to develop a due diligence policy to “address the social and environmental risks linked to sourcing, processing and trading raw materials and secondary raw materials”.
Rapporteur Achille Variati (S&D, IT) said: “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. We agreed on measures that greatly benefit consumers: batteries will be well-functioning, safer and easier to remove. 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.”
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