The European Union has passed a new law that will force gadget makers to design their products with easily replaceable batteries, a move that could revive a feature that was once common in smartphones and other devices.
The law, which was approved by the European Parliament on Friday with only nine votes against, covers all types of batteries sold in the EU: portable batteries, SLI batteries (supplying power for starting, lighting or ignition of vehicles), light means of transport batteries (providing power for the traction to wheeled vehicles such as electric scooters and bikes), electric vehicle batteries and industrial batteries.
According to the law, portable batteries in appliances must be designed so that consumers can easily remove and replace them themselves by three and a half years after the entry into force of the legislation. This means that users would be able to swap out their old or depleted batteries with new ones without special tools or services, extending the lifespan and functionality of their gadgets.
“By replaceable batteries, they mean the kind that powered 12-button phones, replacing which used to be as simple as popping open the back cover and slipping in a new unit,” The Indian Express reported.
The law also aims to increase the collection and recycling of batteries, especially lithium, cobalt, copper, lead and nickel. It sets minimum levels of recovered materials for batteries and collection targets for portable batteries and light means of transport batteries. It also introduces a carbon footprint declaration and label for electric vehicle batteries, light means of transport batteries and rechargeable industrial batteries with a capacity above 2kWh. It also requires a digital battery passport for these types of batteries with information on their model and use.
“The development, production and use of batteries are key to the EU’s transition to a climate neutral economy, given the important role they play in the rollout of zero emission mobility and the storage of intermittent renewable energy,” the European Parliament said in a press release.
The law also requires all economic operators placing batteries on the EU market, except for SMEs, to develop and implement a due diligence policy to address the social and environmental risks linked to sourcing, processing and trading raw materials and secondary raw materials.
The law will go into effect after the Council’s endorsement and the publication in the EU Official Journal. Manufacturers will have three and a half years to comply with the new rules.
This is not the first time the EU has prompted a rethink in the gadget industry. Last year, the EU set a deadline of December 28, 2024, for phones and other small electronic devices to include a USB-C port for charging. That’s a problem for Apple considering the iPhone uses a proprietary Lightning port.
“Battery swapping has become a lot like hydrogen fuel cells for passenger cars: They’re automotive ideas that are never quite born, but just won’t die,” IEEE Spectrum wrote. “Here in 2021, battery swapping in EVs has become an especially bad idea. It’s a technical and market dead-end that seems more about separating green investors from their money than providing a solution.”
– After Type-C, new law could force makers to have replaceable batteries in smartphones, The Indian Express, December 26, 2022
– New EU Regulation Could Bring Back User Replaceable Batteries in Phones, Gadgets 360, December 23, 2022
– New EU legislation can bring back user-replaceable batteries, GSMArena, December 20, 2022
– EU votes to bring back removable batteries in phones and appliances, The Indian Express, June 17, 2023