Batteries for electric vehicles – Requirements for initial placing on the market and second life use

For vehicle batteries, there are two main stages in the product cycle. Firstly, the initial placing on the market and thereafter, the second life use. We have summarised the new obligations and requirements for manufacturers when initally placing on the market and the developments in second life use.

A) The Battery Act 2021 – obligations for manufacturers of batteries for electric vehicles

The Battery Act (BattG) contains requirements for economic operators regarding batteries, including batteries for electric vehicles. In 2021, the amendment to the Battery Act came into force. We have summarised the most important obligations from the BattG for manufacturers of batteries for electric vehicles.

1. Vehicle batteries or industrial batteries?

The definitions in the BattG are prone to misunderstandings. For example, the term “vehicle batteries” does not include batteries for electric vehicles. This category only includes batteries intended for the starter, lighting or ignition of vehicles. On the other hand, batteries for electric vehicles of any kind or for the propulsion of hybrid vehicles are considered “industrial batteries”.

2. The producer within the meaning of the BattG is not always the actual manufacturer

There are also misunderstandings about the term “producer”, to which a large number of obligations are attached. This is because the producer, as the initial distributor of batteries (including accumulators), must fulfil certain obligations before its products can be offered and placed on the German market. These include, in particular, registration, ensuring certain product characteristics and labelling, setting up a suitable solution for returns and ensuring the proper disposal of used batteries.

However, “producers” are not just manufacturer in the narrower sense, but also first distributors onto the market who do not produce themselves. Companies must therefore assess for themselves whether they are a responsible producerwithin the meaning of the law on the basis of the following criteria:

    • Actual Producers are companies that produce batteries under their own brand name or have them produced by third parties and place them on the market in Germany for the first time,
    • Exporters are companies that do not produce themselves of have them produced, that sell batteries from a third country to end consumers (B2B or B2C) in Germany
    • Importers are companies that import batteries from a third country to Germany and offer them for sale here for the first time or otherwise place them on the market,
    • Distributors and intermediaries, who intentionally or negligently offer batteries from manufacturers who are not or not properly registered on ear (elektro-altgeräte register or electronic waste register).

 3. What are the essential obligations of the manufacturer

a) Registration

Until now, anyone who wanted to place batteries on the market commercially for the first time in Germany had to register in the BattG register of the Federal Environment Agency. This will now be replaced by a registration obligation with the ear foundation. This obligation applies to manufacturers or importers of batteries covered by the Act.

Transition period: Manufacturers of automotive batteries must register with the ear foundation from 1 January 2021. Battery producerwho are already correctly registered with the Federal Environment Agency have a one-year transition period for their registration with the ear foundation, which ends on 31 December 2021.

Companies with their registered office abroad may optionally appoint an authorised representative for registration. In contrast to the ElektroG, however, the appointment of an authorised representative is not mandatory if the producerdoes not have an establishment within the scope of the Act.

Declaration on return option: It should be noted that in the case of automotive or industrial batteries, a declaration must be made at the time of registration that a return option has been set up in accordance with the requirements of the BattG and that the persons entitled to return the batteries have access to the option.

b) Obligation to participate in a return system

In addition to the general administrative processes that must be complied with and constantly monitored, producers of batteries must generally participate in a return system. Placing batteries on the market is prohibited if the return obligations are not fulfilled.

The producers of automotive and industrial batteries or their authorised representatives shall ensure the fulfilment of their return obligations by offering (1) distributors and (2) treatment facilities a reasonable possibility for return free of charge and by recycling the collected waste batteries. However, there is no obligation on the part of the distributors or the treatment facilities to return the batteries. The respective producers or their authorised representatives, distributors, treatment facilities and end-users may also reach different agreements. There is no collection quota for automotive and industrial batteries.

In the case of vehicle batteries, the deposit obligation would also have to be observed, which, however, primarily affects the distributors and also does not apply to installed vehicle batteries.

c) Labelling

The producers is obliged to label batteries with the crossed-out dustbin (on at least 3 percent of the battery surface, but at least 0.5cm x 0.5cm). This is to inform the consumer that batteries should not be disposed of with household waste. In addition, the customer must be informed in a clearly visible and legible manner that the batteries can be returned free of charge to the point of sale, that the end user is legally obliged to return the used batteries and the meaning of the symbols used (Sections 17-18 BattG).

Rechargeable vehicle batteries shall be marked with an indication of their capacity (in milliampere hours or ampere hours). Non-rechargeable vehicle batteries are not covered by the regulation.

Additional voluntary markings are permissible as long as they do not conflict with the legally required labelling.

d) Materials contained in batteries

The Battery Act contains specifications on the materials contained in batteries. It is prohibited to place on the market vehicle or industrial batteries containing more than 0.0005% mercury by weight.

 

4. Sales in other European countries

Cross-border trade in batteries and accumulators is regulated in the European Union by the Battery Directive 2006/66/EC. The concrete implementation then takes place on a national basis, i.e. each country has its own battery legislation.

 

B) Second life use of electric vehicle batteries

The return, recovery and disposal obligations resulting from the Battery Act are linked to the fact that the batteries in question are used batteries within the meaning of the Act. According to Section 2 (9) of the Battery Act, these are batteries that are waste within the meaning of Section 3 (1) of the Recycling Management Act (KrWG). Waste within the meaning of this Act is any substance or object which the owner discards, intends to discard or is required to discard.

In this respect, it is not surprising that there are already numerous approaches on the market that are intended to enable the longest possible subsequent use (second life use) for used batteries of electric vehicles. The industry is striving to ensure that the batteries have as long a service life as possible, so that they are only considered waste when they are no longer of any use and are only to be disposed of.

In Europe, there are now a large number of cooperative ventures between car manufacturers and energy or battery storage companies in order to implement a corresponding reuse of disused batteries from electric vehicles. These batteries are very often used in connection with the realisation of innovative battery storage concepts, as the residual capacity of disused batteries of electric vehicles is regularly still completely sufficient for this area of application. Battery storage systems equipped in this way then often provide system services (e.g. primary control power) to stabilise the electricity grid, which are increasingly in demand due to the constant increase in volatility. In addition, such batteries are also used for peak shaving and for the integration of renewable energies (e.g. by coupling them with a photo-voltaic system).

In the future, second life use options will certainly increase in order to ensure effective use of the entire battery life and to speculate on further decreasing recycling costs at the actual end of life of the battery. An effective second life use of batteries of electric vehicles by the energy or battery storage companies thus ensures that the valuable raw materials that were used for the production of a battery will continue to be used after the end of its use in electric vehicles and that it will continue to be a valuable asset and not a piece of waste.