Batt4EU: a shared mission towards making EU batteries the world’s greenest and safest
The European Union has set more ambitious climate targets as part of the “Fit for 55” package of regulations: the updated proposal calls for 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050; a pivotal driver in meeting both challenges remains the transportation sector. As part of the journey to 2050 goals, a structural and sustainable change of the transport sector will be needed to attain a reduction of greenhouse gases by 90% while remaining affordable for citizens. All transport modes are included in the roadmap, such as road, rail, aviation, and maritime whereby the targets include 100% emissions reduction for cars and vans by 2035, and a 75% cut in shipping emissions by 20501.
The European Commission has developed several initiatives linking the public and private sectors with a view to accelerate efforts in the transition towards carbon neutrality, and simultaneously manage sectors of strategic interest. Commonly, these two actions are strongly related: Russia’s conflict with Ukraine at the turn of 2022 undoubtedly brought the link between sustainability and strategic interests further into the spotlight when the long-standing concern of EU’s heavy reliance on Russian fossil fuels could no longer be avoided.
The European Commission launched, among others, one initiative linking public and private sectors: the Batt4EU Partnership. BATT4EU is a so-called co-programmed partnership within the broader Horizon Europe research programme. Batt4EU brings together the European Commission on the public side and the Batteries European Partnership Association (BEPA) on the private side. BEPA represents the European battery research and innovation community, comprising industry, research and trade associations as its members. The role of the partnership is to define and prioritise the research needs of the European battery industry, and develop these priorities into open calls for funding under Horizon Europe. Cross-national consortia – containing both BEPA-members and non-BEPA members – submit proposals reviewed by a separate Commission agency; upon election of the winners, some of these applications become research projects which count several organisations from across Europe working together to deliver results on the identified topic. The main goal of these collaborative projects is to boost a competitive, sustainable and circular European battery value chain and to undertake bold actions to reach carbon neutrality.
Electric vehicles represent the largest share of the battery market, and they are believed by many to be the most visible proof of clean mobility transition. Given that several European countries have already committed to banning internal combustion engines for passenger vehicles in the nearest future, the partnership particularly addresses the uptake of electric fleets. Covering both short and long-team research goals, the partnership aims to boost LIB performance, push for upscaling solid-state battery production, and explore next-generation chemistries. Batt4EU has launched several topics with electric vehicles in mind, covering areas like battery management systems, safer designs, as well as faster and more efficient testing procedures. In this regard, Batt4EU collaborates extensively with the 2Zero Partnership to obtain feedback on relevant themes, and even develop joint-calls. Two joint calls between the partnerships have been recently launched, covering life cycle assessments for EVs and the respective batteries in the first call, and battery management systems in the second one. BEPA counts several OEMs among its members, as well as other types along the value chain; namely, equipment suppliers, developers and testers of powertrains, and recyclers, thereby guaranteeing that all perspectives along the value chain provide feedback on topics developed by BEPA.
Along with electric road vehicles, batteries are powering the electrification of waterborne transport, rail transport, and aviation, too. Against this background, and in addition to the EU goals of cutting shipping emissions by 75%, member state goals have been endorsed as well. For example, the Norwegian parliament adopted a resolution to create zero emission zones in its world heritage fjords by 20262 being highly popular for tourist cruise ships and ferries. Such action marks an ambitious and confident step forward with the state of technology needed to attain the project. Batteries for maritime transport have different specifications than those for cars, furthermore facing numerous challenges, such as retrofitting into older ships. In view of the fact that the battery calls developed by Batt4EU are generally not specific for any one transport mode, many can apply to several transport modes. These topics are identified early, and are shared with other relevant partnerships, too, for feedback and potential further collaboration; for example, an upcoming call in 2024 relating to the reduction of size and weight for battery systems for mobility. Such topic was also relevant for rail and aviation sectors, and was consequently shared with Europe’s Rail Joint Undertaking and Clean Aviation Joint Undertaking respectively to ensure it would be applicable and open for each transport mode. The same process will apply in the writing of the strategic research and innovation agenda to ensure all modes are accounted for and represented in the battery industry in the upcoming years.
To enhance clean mobility, an important first step is to ensure that the battery systems within are affordable. With the aim of making EVs more affordable for consumers, the Batt4EU partnership is supporting researchers and producers along the value chain to push their costs down. Furthermore, the partnership focuses on integration of the value chain: an innovative new battery prototype that is too expensive to be produced on a meaningful scale, and is used in an exceedingly pricey electric vehicle remains of marginalised worth. Rising costs of critical raw materials are well noted, and the political aspect of sourcing where they come from is certainly a relevant factor, too. An important step in overcoming this involves funding research into diverse chemistries which primarily use materials more widely available in Europe, and less nickel, cobalt, and lithium. Batt4EU has discussed and developed several topics that aim at reducing costs for researching, producing, testing and recycling batteries. These include more direct topics, such as improved manufacturing techniques, production processes, and even business solutions for supply chain logistics. A less direct form of this also focuses on reducing time needed for testing, validation and research by digitising part of it. Batt4EU has supported the development of a materials acceleration platform by complimenting the successful ongoing BIG-MAP project under Horizon 2020 with a follow up call to build on the results. Not only, the partnership has also developed other topics aimed at the digitalisation of testing and validation which can significantly reduce the time needed to get new batteries onto the market, and the respective cost of such procedures. Even more indirectly, the use of low cost materials and cost efficient production is reported as criteria for most topics.
Finally, Batt4EU is committed to ensuring that batteries produced in Europe are sustainable, and work towards closing the loop of the value chain. End of life is one of the core focus areas for the partnership; battery recycling and second life use not only further circularity and sustainability of batteries in Europe, but they can also help to bring costs down by reusing materials. Batt4EU has launched several calls covering recycling processes, and materials recovery yields are often already high depending on materials. Using batteries for second life use is the other option, whereby EV batteries can be used for stationary storage. Both applications help to accelerate the mobility sector as well by working toward the creation of a market for EV batteries used after the end of their life. Batt4EU has also supported the battery passport concept, to track materials, and help promote the circular business model. Sustainably sourced materials, and the use of recycled materials is also encouraged as criteria for most projects.
Europe is fast accelerating the transition to clean mobility supporting it at all levels to meet climate goals. Part of the European Commission’s means of doing this is through Horizon Europe by funding projects that further these goals. In the case of batteries, the Batt4EU partnership brings the private and public side together to determine the priority needs needed to develop the European battery industry, and to meet the demand and necessity of batteries for clean mobility and other applications. By engaging stakeholders and battery experts all over Europe to come together and define the topics which will become calls for project applications, the Batt4EU partnership aligns stakeholders across the value chain towards the same goals. OEMs, raw material processers, recyclers and everything in between work together to prioritise and define the research and innovation needs for the coming years. The synergies created by this process can help the European battery industry keep up with its international partners and peers: BEPA-membership is open to all organisations that are based in Europe, are aligned with the Batt4EU goals, and are devoting a significant amount of battery R&D in Europe. We welcome all interested parties to join and have their say into what battery research topics need to be funded under Horizon Europe to make clean mobility the cornerstone of Europe’s climate revolution.
Wouter IJzermans, BEPA Executive Director, is leading the development of the Battery European Platform Association (BEPA), the representing association for the battery industry in the Batt4EU Horizon Europe Partnership dedicated to creating a competitive European industrial battery value chain for stationary applications and e-mobility. He combines a background in international relations with nearly ten years of working experience in the energy sector, with a focus on energy storage and (smart) grid development.
1 “Clean and Sustainable Mobility.” Consilium, Council of the European Union, 15 June 2022, https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/clean-and-sustainable-mobility/.
2 Norwegian Maritime Authority (9 January 2023), Zero emissions in the world heritage fjords by 2026, Sjøfartsdirektoratet – Norwegian Maritime Authority. https://www.sdir.no/en/shipping/vessels/environment/prevention-of-pollution-from-ships/zero-emissions-in-the-world-heritage-fjords-by-2026/