A group of German automakers, chemical companies and battery producers have announced the joint development of a “battery passport” designed to help government regulators trace the history of cells. The consortium is funded by the German government and is expected to work in tandem with new battery regulations being prepared by the European Union.
According to the German Ministry of Economics, officially the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, the overall plan is for the EU to mandate the installation of traceable material in all batteries used on the European continent. by 2026. Those for use in electric vehicles are on the rise. First, the passport system is also used to record everything from the vehicle’s repair history to the origin of the power cell’s raw materials.
This is part of a global initiative to advance the concept of environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores for companies to gain preferential treatment from financial institutions and government. But it also serves as a way for large entities to exert new controls over entire industries.
ESG scores have been heavily criticized for effectively favoring existing monopolies while giving government regulators unprecedented levels of control. Additional criticism generally boils down to unfavorable comparisons of China’s social credit scoring system, which has been extended to individual citizens, and the likelihood of adding bureaucratic red tape and thus increasing costs for consumers. However, there is no shortage of government officials or senior executives willing to endorse ESG nonsense as essential to progress, making it something of an odd marriage between business and the state.
According to Reuters, the consortium has eleven members and includes brands such as BASF, BMW and Umicore. So far, the German government has paid 8.2 million euros ($8.78 million) to the group to develop common classification and standards for battery data collection and disclosure, which could soon become mandatory. The resulting system is assumed to have serialized batteries and some integration with today’s connected vehicle technologies.
A European Commission proposal to be discussed later this year stipulates that plug-in electric vehicles, light transport and industrial batteries sold in Europe must disclose their carbon footprint from 2024 and comply with an emissions limit of CO2 from 2027.
They must also disclose the content of recycled raw materials in these batteries from 2027, followed by requirements to use a minimum share of recycled cobalt, lithium, nickel and lead from 2030.
The German consortium is the first project in Europe to attempt to design a digital product to meet these regulations, the German economy ministry said.
The batteries could feature a QR code linking to an online database where EV owners, companies or regulators could access information about the battery’s composition.
Circulor, a UK-based supply chain traceability company, was reportedly responsible for implementing the project’s digital passport technology. Germany said the passport system would help with battery recycling while providing a full history of the battery throughout its lifespan. This is supposed to include the part before its construction. But it’s unclear how this aspect of the plan actually works. Do we just take the manufacturer’s word for it?
I’m also a bit concerned that this could end up becoming another arrow in the quiver of industries trying to accumulate ownership rights over products they’ve already sold to consumers.
As vehicles and other products have become perpetually connected to the internet (transmitting your private data for the record), manufacturers have started trying to put up roadblocks for anyone hoping to repair their own vehicle or use an independent repair shop. Although the right to repair movement is doing all it can to prevent this, it fights on too many fronts and opposes well-funded lobbyists who have longstanding relationships with government lawmakers. Meanwhile, the European Union seems far more interested in exercising new regulatory controls under the auspices of environmentalism and safety than supporting a grassroots movement made up of people who always want to make things right.
While we don’t know for certain exactly how the passports will be used, there’s clearly room for true selflessness in the plan. Such a system would undoubtedly allow better monitoring of supply chains and make the industry more adaptable. It has simply not always been the case that increased government involvement is always better for the environment. We need only point to Europe’s previous incentive for diesel-powered vehicles, which lasted for decades before new data revealed the initiative was likely producing more air pollution, not less. .
The bottom line is that Germany actually asked some of the biggest companies how to control themselves while handing over a wad of cash. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to be a bit suspicious of the resulting plan, especially since the EU seems ready to run with it before it even knows for sure what the resulting battery passports will entail. We’ll be curious to see how the groundwork is laid out, as it could have major ramifications for many industries.
Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC catches and all things truth about cars first by subscribing to our newsletter.