Sustainable Transition: End-of-life treatment of EV battery packs

By Amrut Joshi, Founder; Saket Rachakonda, Senior Associate; and Dia Shetty, Associate, GameChanger Law Advisors

Battery packs that power EVs pose a critical challenge to stakeholders in the Indian EV industry. In recent years, we have witnessed remarkable advancements in battery chemistry, battery pack designs, thermal management, and manufacturing processes for battery packs. Along with these technological advancements, the push for increased production of battery packs is being aided by the government as well.

The next logical step is to address the end-of-life treatment of these battery pa­cks. Given the cocktail of chemicals contained within these battery packs, ensuring their safe end-of-life treatment is crucial to prevent environmental hazards. Regulators’ initial response to this concern is encapsulated in the Battery Waste Management Rules, 2022 (BWMR).

Extended producer responsibility under the BWMR

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) notified the BWMR on August 24, 2022. These rules are applicable to various types of batteries, including EV batteries. The BWMR states that any entity engaged in manufacturing, selling or importing batteries (including any equipment containing a battery) is collectively termed “producer” and has Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

These rules prohibit producers from disposing of waste batteries in landfills and incinerators. The key principle articulated in the BWMR is that producers, as part of their EPR obligations, must recycle (proce­ss waste batteries into raw materials for ma­nufacturing new products), refurbish (re­condition batteries to recharge and fu­nction like new) or re-purpose (use waste ba­tteries for different purposes).

Obligations for producers include registering as a producer through an online centralised portal and obtaining a certificate of registration from the MoEFCC; me­eting the collection and recycling and/or refurbishment targets mentioned in the BWMR; providing an EPR plan to the Central Pollution Control Board by the end of June every year, regarding the batteries manufactured in the preceding financial year; and adhering to prohibitions and labelling requirements prescribed by the BWMR and handling batteries/waste batteries in such a way that no damage is caused to human health and/or the environment. In the event of a breach of any BWMR provision, producers will be liable to imprisonment for a maximum period of five years, along with a fine of up to Rs 100,000.

Looking forward

While the BWMR is an encouraging first step towards effective end-of-life treatment of EV battery packs, as we recommended in our report titled “Charging Ahead: A Cro­ss-Jurisdictional, Regulatory and Industry Analysis of Electric Vehicle Battery Packs”, regulators should explore other innovative solutions. For instance, through Regulation 2023/1542 (commonly referred to as the Batteries Regulation), the EU has now ma­ndated a carbon footprint declaration for all manufactured EV batteries. This will in­clu­de details such as battery modules, carbon footprint of the battery, and other relevant information regarding the battery and its manufacturer. This information is crucial in determining the method (recycling, re-purposing, or refurbishing) for treating batteries at the end of their life cycle.

It is also critical to dispose of battery pac­ks at the right time. The Batteries Regula­tion prescribes that from 2027, all EV batteries should have a battery passport containing information specific to the individual battery, including usage data, charging history, and discharge cycles. If manufacturers have a clearer understanding of a battery pack’s lifecycle – its initial use, history and usage patterns, they would be better equipped to determine the optimal time for disposal.

Finally, a second life for the battery packs can also be considered. These batteries can be utilised for other applications after the end of their initial lifecycles, such as stationary energy-storage services. Giving a second life to batteries by reusing them for alternative, yet functional purposes, yields economic and environmental benefits. Going forward, policymakers should introduce market-wide regulatory standards for second-life batteries for manufacturers and end users.