European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič on 25 June hailed the kick-off meeting of BatteRIes Europe as an umbrella for all batteries research and innovation and an important pillar of the EU Battery Alliance. He reiterated the Commission’s support, noting that by 2040, 57% of new vehicles expected to have batteries.

“This is the first meeting of BatteRIes Europe. It is an important day to lay the groundwork for this collaborative platform,” Šefčovič said.

The European Technology & Innovation Platform (ETIP) on batteries or BatteRIes Europe is one of the actions of the Strategic Action Plan on Batteries.

“BatteRIes Europe brings together research, industry and public authorities over the whole value chain, and involve the Member States and regions. We do not start from scratch – BatteRIes Europe builds on work previously performed on battery Research and Innovation under the Integrated SET-Plan and Strategic Transport Research and Innovation Agenda,” Šefčovič said, adding that it also benefits from the impressive industrial ecosystem set up by Innoenergy.

“I can assure you Commission services will be in support. Their involvement in BatteRIes Europe will ensure the possibility to learn about different funding possibilities throughout the innovation cycle,” he said.

Decarbonisation of the economy

Reminding that decarbonisation of the economy is key to reaching the EU’s long-term goal of net zero emissions, with electrification of road transport playing a major role, the Commission Vice President said, “In line with the recently adopted European Council conclusions, the institutions ‘will continue to advance work on the conditions, the incentives and the enabling framework to ensure transition to a climate-neutral EU’”.

“The stakes are high. As the leaders recalled: we must ensure compliance ‘with the Paris Agreement, preserve European competitiveness, as well as ensure a just and socially balanced transition’. As a vast majority of Member States expressed, I do hope that the final guidance to be given by the end of the year will foresee climate neutrality by 2050,” Šefčovič said.

The European Battery Alliance was set up to enable EU actors to join forces throughout the value chain, to accelerate the energy transition and capture a fast expanding market – €250 billion per year by 2025, as estimated by InnoEnergy.

Bloomberg New Energy Outlook forecasts that by 2040, 57% of new vehicle sales will have batteries – 80% of buses, 60% of cars, below 40% for medium and large commercial vehicles.

“Our aim is to convert our strong research and innovation potential into a real competitive edge in this rapidly growing sector. And to be ready before the hockey stick on EV sales,” he said, noting that production is expected to take off by 2023/2025,” Šefčovič said. From the outset, we have recognised that the industry was in the driving seat. Your leadership is illustrated by all the flagship projects that are now taking off,” he said, referring to companies like Northolt, Saft, Umicore and BASF.

He said that public authorities proved were ready to work together in support while EU Member States, European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission are acting as enablers or facilitators.

Turning to legislative instruments, he noted that the Electricity Market Design Directive would be a key instrument to enable new market players, increase competition for electricity and energy storage. According to Šefčovič, the Directive gives also a crucial role to the consumers, including final consumers, to become active market participants in the energy transition.

Regarding mobility, he noted that the EU has new CO2 emission standards for cars until 2030. “We also now have an agreement on the revision of the Directive on Clean Vehicles. Binding minimum targets at the national level for public procurement of vehicles will be the driver for procuring zero and low emissions vehicles. The EU has also set the first-ever CO2 emission performance standards for heavy-duty lorries,” he said.

He hailed that fact that the industry has picked up this challenge with investments and projects announced – and launched – throughout the whole value chain.

According to the Commission VP, the EIB has provided significant loans to Northvolt so that they can build a pilot line – €52.5 million supported by Innovfin – and a gigafactory €350 million supported by the European Investment Bank and European Investment Fund (EFSI). BASF’s invested €400 million in battery material processing while Umicore’s invested €660 million in Belgium and Poland on battery materials and other substantial cells manufacturing projects and consortia in place and emerging from Sweden, France, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Finland and the other Member States.

Turning to cooperation with EU member States, Šefčovič noted that in their National Energy Climate Plans that many are developing there are not only important plans for the deployment of charging infrastructure and alternative fuels but also for the next generation of batteries manufacturing.

In addition, the Important Projects of Common European Interest allow the Member States to make a substantial investment into innovative pan-European projects up until the first deployment, he said.

Several of the EU Member States have already launched processes to identify potential consortia and are working together to design one or more Important Projects of Common European Interest in this field. “We expect the first notification in the upcoming weeks thanks to excellent cooperation with France, Germany and many other countries,” he said.

Regarding cooperation with the regions, this commitment is being matched at the regional level, Šefčovič said, adding that 27 regions have committed to support battery related projects and have teamed up to strengthen their competitive innovation ecosystems and identify potential projects for which they can mobilise regional funding. They have been brought together in the Commission’s ‘Smart Specialisation Partnership on Advanced Battery Materials’.

Sustainability requirements and standards

“We are also working fast to develop a robust regulatory framework to establish minimum performance and sustainability criteria for batteries placed on the EU market. These will be underpinned by European standards. We want to be the best at producing the highest performing and greenest batteries, with responsible sourcing, the lowest carbon footprint and the highest level of recyclability and re-use,” Šefčovič said.

He reminded Europe has traditionally been a global leader and front-runner in all aspects of automotive design and production. “If Europe is to retain its global leadership, it needs to be the lead manufacturer, and not just a customer, of sustainable batteries,” he said.