Germany has announced today a three-year project aimed at creating a full battery passport, bringing together industry, academia and startups to try to solve one of the more pressing issues of our time.
The effort would develop standardised digital identities for batteries that would include information on things like battery lifecycles and components, which could make it easier to recycle expensive materials inside batteries. As part of the initiative, 11 companies and academic institutions have received a combined €8.2m to work on such a system.
With the rise of electric vehicles, the way we source batteries and then find a second life for them, and ultimately recycle them, is of crucial concern. However, to date efforts to create a battery passport have largely fallen to individual companies or industries, a situation that many see as deeply flawed.
What does a battery passport solution look like?
According to UK-headquartered startup Circulor, one of the 11 participants, the German-funded R&D project will develop core data specifications and technical standards for a “passport”, as well as a standardised data space that will manage the digital identities of batteries that are manufactured or placed into service in Europe.
“The group of participants in this consortium include car manufacturers like BMW and Audi, and big tier-one suppliers of materials like BASF,” says Circulor’s founder and CEO, Douglas Johnson-Poensgen. The National Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech) and the Fraunhofer Institute are also involved — "real horsepower from German industry."
“We're the only technology provider, and that's largely because we've developed what is already very much on the way to being a battery passport solution,” he adds. “Our focus has been particularly on the upstream inherited carbon emissions and inherited human rights concerns, but that's a fundamental ingredient of a battery passport.”
The need for a standardised passport has only increased. The forthcoming EU Battery Regulation, expected to be passed into law later this year and to go into effect in 2027, is likely to require battery passports that clearly show a battery’s embedded CO2 emissions, compliance to ethical production standards and amount of recycled content.
“The issues around sustainability that are happening at each of the stages along the supply chain are too complex for one player to be able to solve alone,” says Sarah Montgomery, cofounder and CEO of battery supply chain focused startup Infyos, and a former member of World Economic Forum's Global Battery Alliance.
She adds: “If we genuinely want to be able to create this transition in as sustainable a way as possible it needs to be both industry collaboration but also collaboration between regulators, between NGOs, between other sustainability organisations, to make sure that we have a holistic approach towards sustainability and towards improving the supply chain.”
According to Johnson-Poensgen, the goal of this new initiative is to create a demonstrator of a full battery passport, from the primary supply to the first manufacturer, the in-life and the circular economy that underpins it, with actionable learnings disseminated along the way.
“What the German government is trying to do here is essentially act as a convener and encourager of German industry,” he says. "The French are thinking of something similar, but are a little bit behind, and I'd be stunned if others weren't trying to get their heads around this as well. But it's the first time that I'm aware of a government pushing for this."
According to the World Economic Forum's Global Battery Alliance, global battery demand is expected to grow by 25% a year in the short to medium term, driven by the electrification of transportation and the deployment of batteries in electricity grids. By 2030, demand for batteries is expected to have increased 14 fold, with the EU accounting for upwards of 17% of that total.