Electric and hybrid car batteries: what’s changing in the EU

EU regulation 2023/1542 has been in force since Sunday 18 February, but will be gradually applied by 18 August 2033: here’s what changes for battery-powered cars and motorbikes

Giuseppe Croce

From smartphones to supercars, from laptops to scooters, from smart watches to quadricycles: the future of the economy is electric and battery-powered, and the automotive industry is as much part of this phenomenon as the electronics industry. This is why battery electric cars are one of the fundamental chapters of the new EU regulation 2023/1542, which has just come into force.


The new EU regulation 2023/1542 does not only concern batteries used on means of transport, but all civil and industrial devices equipped with an energy accumulator. The only exceptions are batteries used in military devices and vehicles, intended for national security, aerospace and those used in the nuclear industry. For the rest, all batteries of all electronic devices or electrified vehicles (from the clock battery to the battery pack of the electric truck) will have to comply with the new regulation. But not all batteries in the same way, nor at the same times. With EU regulation 2023/1542, Europe is trying to look to the near future with the consideration that a real European battery industry has yet to be born.


Batteries weighing more than 25 kilos, intended for L category quadricycles, M, N and O category electric and hybrid cars, and those of any weight intended for light means of transport (LMT) such as electric scooters and motorbikes or -bike, fully fall within the new regulation. For these batteries there is the obligation to declare the “carbon footprint”, i.e. how much CO2 was emitted to produce the accumulator. Battery manufacturers will have to attach studies and scientific sources to the declaration to support the declared data, so that an independent body can check that the quantity of CO2 declared is credible. In this way the EU intends to cut the corner and eliminate any controversy regarding the poor environmental sustainability of batteries for electric cars and motorbikes. For exactly the same reason, there will also be the obligation of a “digital passport” for the battery, a document with information on the manufacturer of the battery, the factory from which it came out, the chemical composition including any dangerous substances used (in addition to cadmium, mercury and lead) and the date of manufacture. Battery manufacturers will also have to go through the so-called “due diligence” (a sort of fiscal X-ray of the company) if they have a turnover exceeding 40 million euros per year.


Among the obligations established by EU regulation 2023/1542 is that of building electronic devices with user-replaceable batteries. This obligation starts from 18 February 2027 and also applies to light means of transport. This means that all electric scooters on sale in three years will have to have replaceable batteries, or they will not be able to be sold in Europe.


Europe, with EU regulation 2023/1542, is preparing for a future in which everything will be battery-powered and there will be millions of tons of batteries to dispose of every year. Recycling obligations are therefore established for the most polluting individual materials, with various increasing and differentiated steps also based on the composition of the batteries. From 31 December 2027, for example, EU countries will have to be able to recover 50% of lithium and 90% of copper, lead, nickel and cobalt. From 31 December 2031, however, we will have to recover at least 80% of the lithium and 95% of the other materials. At the same time, and always in incremental steps, the batteries used in vehicles sold in the EU will have to contain increasingly greater quantities of recycled lithium, lead, nickel and cobalt.


EU regulation 2023/1542 was definitively approved in July 2023 and entered into force on 18 February 2024, but it is only the beginning of a long journey that will be completed on 18 August 2033. This long time horizon should not be surprising , for two reasons. The first is that Europe has yet to equip itself with a battery recycling supply chain that allows it to process batteries at the end of their life, without sending them to non-EU countries. The second is that the useful life of a automotive battery has a useful life of at least 10 years, so we will actually need to dispose of large quantities of accumulators only at the beginning of the next decade.