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Removable batteries will make their comeback on our smartphones

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European Union lawmakers have finally agreed on a new set of rules aimed at making batteries more durable and reusable. These new measures could well impact our smartphones.

Already at the beginning of the year, the European Union was considering new rules. To extend the life of electronic products and prevent waste. In particular by banning phones with built-in batteries in Europe. A few months later, lawmakers finally agreed on new regulations. It will present a new set of challenges for consumer technology companies and battery manufacturers.

These new measures come some time after Europe’s decision to impose a universal charging port. Although most smartphone manufacturers have already use a USB-C port in their devices. It is mainly Apple that will have to comply with the new directive. And ditch the proprietary Lightning port on its iPhones by December 28, 2024.

In the new legislation, Europe advertises wanting batteries that are easier to remove and replace. But above all, better inform consumers. Three and a half years after the entry into force of these new measures. The batteries of our electronic devices must therefore be easily accessible and easily replaceable. Smartphone manufacturers could therefore bring back removable batteries.

The new EU legislation will apply to all types of batteries sold in the EU. Including batteries used in electronic devices or batteries used in two-wheeled vehicles and electric vehicles (EVs).

Europe’s objective is above all to make batteries greener. From early 2024, battery manufacturers in the EU will have to report on the total carbon footprint of their batteries. From extraction to the recycling process. The data collected will then be used to set a maximum CO2 limit. And this for batteries which will come into force from July 2027.

Replaceable batteries will come to smartphones

The new legislation also says that to better inform users. The batteries will carry labels and QR codes containing information about their capacity. In addition to performance, durability and chemical composition.

But Europe should not stop there. In order to improve battery life, smartphones and tablets may soon be required to display an energy label. As is already the case on televisions or even washing machines. This will inform customers about the characteristics of the battery. But also on the water and dust resistance of the products.

This new label should therefore complement the repairability index that appeared a few years ago. But that can sometimes be misleading. Unfortunately, since its launch, the repairability index is still struggling to convince. We therefore hope that if an energy label is voted on in the coming months, it will be more efficient.

energy label

For now, the EU agreement only requires a carbon footprint statement and label for electric vehicle batteries. In addition to LMT batteries and rechargeable industrial batteries with a capacity greater than 2 kWh. These will also need to have a “digital battery passport” which includes battery model information. As well as information specific to the individual battery and its usage.

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We are therefore far from smartphones for the moment. But that should change once the measure is adopted for larger batteries. For our small devices, Europe already intends to set collection targets. They are set at 45% by 2023, 63% by 2027 and 73% by 2030. This will greatly reduce e-waste pollution.

Undoubtedly, this new regulation poses a series of challenges for many manufacturers. Who will have to adapt and change their way of doing things when designing their smartphones and other devices.

For some time, many manufacturers have focused on designing their mobiles in such a way that the back cannot be opened. Something they reason with the explanation that this way they can achieve finer and more stylized designs. Make better use of the space inside the mobile.

A challenge for manufacturers

Classic phones, those that populated our lives before the dominance of the smartphone, offered several unbeatable aspects. One of them was autonomy: since they didn’t spend much, they didn’t consume too much either. Another aspect was the ability to change the battery in 30 seconds. No need to take the mobile to the technical service, wait several days and pay a fortune in return. It was enough to remove the shell, remove the battery, put the new one and close the phone. Did you miss it? Well, the same thing comes back.

Normally, if your battery has lost its capacity or useful life. You have no other choice but to go to the technical service of the manufacturer of your mobile. So that they are the ones who make the change. Something that will be much easier to do if the batteries are removable. And you can buy one yourself and change it whenever you want.

For the time being, the European Parliament reached an agreement. But there is still plenty of time for the regulations to come into force. If he finally does so in the terms proposed: the process will be long and open to change.

Other measures taken:

  • Collection targets are set at 45% by 2023, 63% by 2027 and 73% by 2030 for portable batteries. And 51% by 2028 and 61% by 2031 for LMT batteries.
  • Minimum contents of recovered cobalt (16%), lead (85%), lithium (6%) and nickel (6%). Waste from manufacturing and use should be reused in new batteries.
  • All waste LMT, EV, SLI and industrial batteries must be collected, free of charge for end users. Whatever their nature, chemical composition, condition, brand or origin.
  • By December 31, 2030, the Commission will phase out the use of non-rechargeable batteries.

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