An assessment of the European regulation on battery recycling for electric vehicles

Article Published in Energy Policy (March 2022)

This paper investigates the design of a recent regulatory proposal aimed at favoring the emergence of a
battery recycling industry in Europe. Electric mobility is deemed necessary to cut CO2 emissions in the
transport sector but the industrial and environmental impacts of lithium-ion battery manufacturing are
controversial. A recent regulatory proposal from the European Commission introduces the obligation to
attain a series of minimum thresholds of recycled materials for the new batteries to be manufactured
after 2030. This paper discusses the conditions required for that obligation to be fulfilled. It develops a
material flow model that projects battery wastes and their recycling potential. Our findings indicate that
the feasibility of proposed thresholds is not very sensitive to changes of material intensities from battery
technology shifts, recycling efficiencies, or the faster uptake of demand. On the contrary, battery lifetimes
are the most crucial parameters for recycling potential. We believe that this result could jeopardize
avenues for extending battery lifetimes such as second-life battery usage. Our policy recommendations
are twofold. First, we recommend lower thresholds to improve the regulation credibility. Second, the
regulation should integrate other objectives that address the lifetime of batteries.

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