The impact of electric vehicle batteries on the environment and communities is set to significantly improve under a new law agreed by EU lawmakers on Friday. Green group Transport & Environment (T&E) said the Batteries Regulation is a game changer for the sourcing, production and recycling of batteries for electric cars, which are already far better for the planet than burning oil.

Battery manufacturers which want to sell in Europe will have to report the product’s entire carbon footprint, from mining to production to recycling, as early as July 2024. That data will then be used to set a maximum CO2 limit for batteries to apply as early as July 2027, ensuring that companies make them using clean energy instead of fossil fuels.

Alex Keynes, clean vehicles manager at T&E, said: “Batteries are already far more sustainable than burning oil in our cars, but they can be much better. New rules on carbon footprint, recycling and due diligence checks will mean batteries sold in Europe are the most sustainable globally, setting the standard for the rest of the world.”

Companies selling batteries in the EU will also have to comply with rules designed to prevent environmental, human rights and labour abuses in their supply chains. The law will require battery-makers to identify, prevent and address a wide range of issues, spanning water pollution to community rights.

But while the regulation will apply to key raw minerals such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and graphite, T&E said all raw materials, including fossil fuels, should be held to the same standards under a new due diligence law that the EU will finalise in the coming months.

Today batteries are already more resource-efficient than petrol and diesel, which cannot be reused and recycled once they have been burned. New EU recycling targets will extend their advantage even further: from 2027 battery-makers will need to recover 90% of nickel and cobalt used, rising to 95% in 2031. They would also need to recover 50% of lithium used in 2027, rising to 80% in 2031.

T&E said the new rules are also good news for Europe’s growing battery industry. The law will ensure products made by new European players cannot be undercut by imported batteries made with coal-heavy energy and with little regard for human and workers rights. It will also spur the investments needed to establish more recycling capacity and create local jobs in Europe.

Alex Keynes said: “The law helps even the playing field between Europe’s battery industry and imports which are subject to minimal standards. Global producers can invest in cleaner production processes and new recycling capacity in Europe knowing they will have a guaranteed market for green batteries here.”

Key details still need to be clarified by lawmakers in a raft of implementing legislation. T&E said the new carbon footprint rules – due already by next summer – must not allow greenwashing whereby battery producers would only need to disclose Guarantees of Origin to prove that their energy is renewable.

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