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European Commission plans draft EU green battery rules by October ahead of EV surge

Highlights

EU making progress in lithium self-sufficiency

Working on EU raw materials industrial alliance

Eur7.6 bil EU funding available for innovation

Brussels — The European Commission plans to propose EU sustainable battery rules by October in a bid to challenge China's dominance of the global battery market, which is projected to grow to Eur250 billion per year ($274 billion) by 2025.

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The EC hopes the rules will become binding by 2022, in time for an expected surge in electric vehicle output in 2023, EC vice-president Maros Sefcovic said after a European Batteries Alliance video conference on Tuesday.

The rules aim to give the EU a competitive edge in battery sustainability, performance and safety, and to develop a circular economy for all batteries produced or sold in Europe.

A key issue is access to raw materials, where China also dominates.

The EU is making progress in becoming self-sufficient in lithium, used for lithium ion EV batteries, Sefcovic said.

There are four sustainable lithium mining projects underway in Europe that are set to meet up to 80% of its battery sector needs by 2025.

The EC is also working on a raw materials alliance, similar to the public-private European Battery Alliance model, to focus on removing bottlenecks in critical raw materials supply chains for EU industry.

The EU is expected to need up to 18 times more lithium and five times more cobalt by 2030 to meet demand from renewable energy, e-mobility, defense and space sectors, Sefcovic said.

Major investments

Public funding is playing a major role in developing the European battery sector, with Eur7.6 billion still available from EU structural funds to support innovative battery projects under the Smart Specialisation Platform, Sefcovic said.

The EC also approved in December 2019 plans by Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden to provide Eur3.2 billion in total for an "important project of common interest", or IPCEI, focused on developing sustainable lithium ion battery technologies.

The project is expected to gain another Eur5 billion of support from private investors, and to run until 2031.

It will focus on how to make the entire battery value chain lower-carbon, looking at raw and advanced materials, cells and modules, battery systems, and re-purposing, recycling and refining.

Sefcovic said a second battery IPCEI, led by Germany, is being prepared.

The EU's Business Investment Platform has also mobilized Eur7 billion for innovative battery projects across the value chain.

EV growth

Sefcovic said that EVs' share of the EU market grew to 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020, up from 2.5% in Q1 2019, reflecting falls in demand for diesel and petrol vehicles.

This was "mainly thanks" to the EU's new vehicle CO2 emission limit standards coming into force, he said.

Sefcovic added that the number of EV models made in the EU is expected to more than double from 98 to some 214 in 2021.

The European Battery Alliance video conference included the CEOs of BASF, E-bility, EDF, Forsee Power, Infinity, Northvolt, Orano, SAFT, Schneider, Umicore, Volkswagen and Vulcan Energy Resources.