The EU has voted to mandate that everything from cellphones to e-bikes must have easily replaceable batteries and it will be legitimized in 2024.
The drawback of permanently installed batteries is that if the battery fails, the device becomes useless, and is often thrown away.
The law will cover smartphones and other typical consumer appliances, as well as batteries for “light means of transport” such as e-bikes and e-scooters.
By January 1, 2024, these devices must be designed such that batteries can be safely removed and replaced using “basic and commonly available tools” and “without causing damage to the appliance or batteries.” Manufacturers must also provide documentation for the removal and replacement procedure. This documentation must also be provided online for the duration of a product’s expected lifetime.
The EU isn’t just mandating replaceability when it comes to its war on e-waste, either. It comes along with a big push toward a more “circular economy” which relies more on recycling existing materials rather than relying on finding new ones. Targets for collecting used portable batteries will be mandated, starting at a 45% collection rate by the end of 2023 and ramping up to 80% by the end of 2030. The law also mandates collection for all automotive, industrial, and electric vehicle batteries.
Moreover, it is also stated that in 2030, these batteries should use a percentage of materials from recycled batteries. 12% of cobalt, 85% of lead, 4% of lithium, and 4% of nickel used in a battery should be from recovered sources. This steps up to 20% of cobalt, 10% of lithium, and 12% of nickel by 2035, with the lead fraction remaining the same as the recycling infrastructure for that metal, is already in place.
As a result of the new legislation, the pressure on mining operations will be lower, and environmental impacts reduced, as recycling becomes a key part of the battery production supply chain. Additionally, there’ll be less need to toss out a device suffering battery issues, with replacement straightforward and easy. The trade-off is that companies will have to work a little harder to accommodate these requirements, and some designs may suffer a minor weight or size penalty in the meantime.