By publishing the document 'Europe on the Move: Sustainable Mobility for Europe: safe, connected and clean', the European Commission made clear its desire to undertake a strategic policy campaign on the subject of batteries. The document heralded a study, which is now fully under way under the leadership of VITO/Energyville and will investigate what product requirements can be considered in the case of batteries used in sustainable mobility solutions.

What factors are primarily involved in the production and sustainable use of batteries?

To answer that question, ecodesign for batteries is taking the entire life cycle of a battery into account and is examining critical materials, such as cobalt, graphite and lithium. In comparison to its storage capacity, producing a battery requires an awful lot of energy, so this is also being taken into account, along with the need to ensure that the battery offers a service life that is sufficiently long to justify the negative impact caused by its production. The ability to recycle some of the critical materials, such as cobalt, from the battery once it reaches the end of its life cycle will also be an attractive proposition.

What type of battery forms part of the study?

The study is focusing primarily on lithium batteries used for mobility purposes, but it is also examining energy storage within an electricity grid that includes renewable energy. The reason for this is that the switchover to electric mobility will require huge volumes of lithium batteries to be produced. The storage capacity of a battery decreases throughout its service life, causing it to become unsuitable for use in an electric vehicle. This effect can be limited by means of effective design and by optimising the chemical aspects of the battery, however the study is also examining the requirements that will enable the batteries to have a second life by using them for energy storage within the electricity grid.

This contract with the departments of the EU is consists of three parts: an Ecodesign study involving a life cycle analysis; providing support for an impact assessment regarding the possible introduction of new regulations, and providing assistance in the drawing up of a standardisation mandate.

The aim of the project is to provide the European Commission with a technical, environmental and economic analysis that fulfils the relevant European Directives or Regulations. In order to achieve this, the study is following a specific methodology – the Methodology for Ecodesign of Energy-related Products (MEErP), which consists of seven specific tasks, ranging from defining the product to analysing policy scenarios.

The project started in September 2018 and will continue until October 2019.