The global demand for batteries is rising in line with the growth of the electric vehicle market and other renewable energy projects. But the European Union (EU) can spoil the party by labeling lithium batteries harmful to humans.
The risk assessment committee of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) cited studies based on lithium-containing medicines used over the long term to treat mood disorders, which they referenced to classify lithium salts as dangerous for human health.
As the battery and metals industries fight against this move, some European countries are going all-in in their battery investments, demonstrating the wide support for battery industry growth across the region.
Many experts also worry that if the EU classifies lithium to be hazardous, there could be delays in progress regarding the development of green energy. The battle to balance energy security by ensuring that rapid transition veers away from fossil fuels and moves forward toward renewable alternatives could also make new regulations a bit harder.
Europe is now fast becoming a hub for electric vehicles and is competing with Asia in developing the most efficient, longest-ranging EVs as the market expands. Several other countries have already announced the ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in the 2030s, and many industry groups fear that this new move by EU lawmakers could hinder their efforts.
China has been dominating the EV sector in the last few years and has rapidly established its lithium industry and battery manufacturing capabilities to solidify its position in the global market.
However, Europe has gradually expanded its position in the battery market to meet the increasing demand. (Related: Lithium mining for electric vehicle batteries is harming indigenous groups in Arizona.)
Various industry groups, including the European Battery Recycling Association, the European Geothermal Energy Council and the International Lithium Association, have sent a letter to EU legislators voicing their "deep concern" over the ECHA's proposal to label three lithium compounds as dangerous to human health: lithium carbonate, lithium chloride and lithium hydroxide.
The groups pointed out that the classification does not place a ban on the import of lithium products, which could lead to higher prices due to stricter processing, packaging and storage regulations. It could also allow countries without these regulations to undercut the costs to produce cheaper products, making their markets more competitive.
According to the letter, "Europe is at a critical period in its energy transition, needing to stimulate new investment into a full EV battery value chain."
The biggest challenge is for EU to secure battery metals that will be in very short supply over the next 15 years.
"This is a race where Europe is playing catch-up to China, which is already over a decade ahead, now controlling most global processing for lithium and other battery metals," the letter said.
Still, the move isn't stopping other countries from developing their own battery manufacturing capabilities. Norway's oil and gas giant, Equinor, announced that it will be acquiring U.S.-based battery storage developer East Point Energy and will take on a 4.1-gigawatt pipeline of "early to mid-stage battery storage projects" that are focused on the U.S. East Coast. (Related: Op-ed: Increased lithium demand for electric vehicle batteries comes with a price.)
"Battery storage will play an important role in the energy transition as the world increases its share of intermittent renewable power," Equinor said.
Europe is also expecting a giga factory boom, with several gigawatt-scale battery cell manufacturing plants being announced in the last year and more expected to follow.
Watch the video below about the Feds banning lithium batteries on planes but pushing them for cars.
This video is from The David Knight Show channel on Brighteon.com.
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