Goodbye, glued-in batteries: New EU rules make it easier to replace phone batteries

"End-of-life batteries contain many valuable resources and we must be able to reuse those critical raw materials instead of relying on third countries for supplies."
Amal Jos Chacko
Representational image of a replaceable battery.jpg
Representational image of a replaceable battery.


The European Union (EU) announced a major step towards the adoption of new regulations mandating replaceable batteries for all electronic devices, including smartphones, on 10th July 2023. This move aims to promote sustainability and reduce waste in the rapidly growing battery industry. 

“Batteries are key to the decarbonization process and the EU’s shift towards zero-emission modes of transport,” said Teresa Ribera, Spanish minister for the ecological transition. 

“End-of-life Batteries contain many valuable resources and we must be able to reuse those critical raw materials instead of relying on third countries for supplies. The new rules will promote the competitiveness of European industry and ensure new batteries are sustainable and contribute to the green transition,” she added.

Under the new rules, manufacturers will have until 2027 to redesign their products to allow for easy battery replacements by users, a grace period that should ensure sufficient time for companies to change designs and manufacturing processes of smartphones and other devices to enable easy battery swapping.

Driving Sustainability and Resource Recovery

The EU's new battery regulations not only focus on replaceability but also emphasize the collection, recovery, and recycling of waste batteries. The rules set ambitious targets for waste collection, with the goal for portable batteries to be 63 percent by the end of 2027 and 73 percent by 2030. 

Additionally, the regulations aim to increase the recovery of valuable materials from waste batteries, such as lithium, cobalt, lead, and nickel. By 2027, the target for lithium recovery is set at 50 percent, increasing to 80 percent by 2031. 

Given the recent trend of consumers shifting to EVs, these regulations also provide for mandatory minimum levels of recycled content for industrial, SLI batteries, and EV batteries, with clauses ensuring batteries hold recycled content documentation.

These measures will help reduce environmental impact and ensure the efficient use of critical raw materials.

Shaping the Future of the Mobile Industry

The EU's decision to mandate replaceable batteries will have a profound impact on the mobile phone industry. Manufacturers will need to rethink their design strategies to meet the new requirements while still delivering premium devices that meet consumer expectations. 

It would be naïve, however, to expect companies to take these new rules without any resistance. Given that these companies currently charge a not-so-insignificant amount for a battery change, it would not be a surprise to see innovative and proprietary methods of swapping and extended batteries to ensure that their share of revenue remains unaffected.

The EU's focus on sustainability and consumer empowerment aligns with broader trends in the industry. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their devices and demand more sustainable options. 

The move toward replaceable batteries not only addresses this demand but also paves the way for innovations such as port-less smartphones, where users can easily swap in fully charged batteries. By prioritizing sustainability and consumer needs, the EU is leading the way in shaping the future of the mobile industry.

The EU's new regulations on replaceable batteries aim to avoid another Chlorofluorocarbon-esque scenario— going all in into innovation without realizing the potential harm it could create in the long run— and mark a significant milestone in promoting sustainability, resource recovery, and consumer empowerment. 

While the move to easily removable batteries might make it harder for products to obtain standards like the IP68 rating, perhaps this is the push companies require to set their priorities straight and put innovations over planned obsolescence and immediate profits.

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