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2024-03-05 VDE dialog

EU battery pass: "This does not yet exist anywhere in the world."

The Battery Pass project, led by Systemiq, aims to support the development of the EU Battery Pass. Tilmann Vahle, who is responsible for sustainable mobility and batteries at Systemiq, explains the value of the passport for the circular economy and why he believes the challenges can be overcome.

Interview: Markus Strehlitz

VDE dialog: You founded the project consortium The Battery Pass. What does this involve?

Tilmann Vahle: Together with a consortium from industry and science, we have developed a three-year program to teach companies what battery passports should look like to comply with the EU Battery Regulation. Because there won't be just one battery passport, but many. Our project aims to develop a basis that companies can use to implement this more easily and efficiently. To this end, we have developed guidelines for the necessary content, technical requirements and a technical demonstrator. We are also preparing analyses to show the value the passport can have for companies and the economy. It's important to note that we're not developing the actual battery passport. Technology providers such as Siemens, SAP or Amazon can do that better.

Porträt von Tilmann Vahle, Director Sustainable Mobility and Batterie, Systemiq

Tilmann Vahle, Director Sustainable Mobility and Batteries, Systemiq

| Systemiq

You said that there won't be just one battery passport, but many. You'll have to explain that.

From February 2027, the economic operator – the organization that places the batteries on the market – will be responsible and liable for the battery passport for every large battery sold in the EU. In the case of automotive batteries, for example, this is the vehicle manufacturer that sells the car in which the battery is installed. So not the battery cell manufacturers – this is an important distinction. For stationary batteries, it will be the system providers who sell the finished battery on the electricity market – for example to the grid provider. How they go about implementing this is up to them. That means that a car manufacturer such as Volkswagen will be able to develop its own solution or have one developed. BMW may have a different one. BYD yet another one. And so on. But if everyone builds their own solution, it will become confusing and extremely expensive because everyone will be starting from scratch. We have therefore tried to make proposals for the content methods and technical systems in order to create a harmonized framework.

What do you think of the battery passport? Will it achieve the goal of supporting the circular economy?

I think so. For example, collecting granular CO2 data that is product-specific is revolutionary. That has never been done before anywhere in the world. And it’s really crucial for the management of CO2 across supply chains, because now – for the first time ever – it will be possible for car manufacturers, for example, to ask battery cell manufacturers: “How much CO2 does this cell now have as a backpack at your particular production site?” This will allow companies to deal with CO2 costs much more actively and strategically. The fact that the battery passport also has to include design sketches and data on the health status of the battery in question is great as well. Especially for the broad mass of repair workshops. Otherwise, they would have to depend on car manufacturers granting them access to this data.

But how much work do the battery passport requirements entail for companies?

There are increasing complaints that the battery passport creates too much additional work. But most of the data required in the battery passport is already being collected anyway. Among other things, due to legislation that already exists – for example, the REACH regulation for hazardous chemicals or the requirements of the battery regulation itself, such as the CO2 footprint. Companies also already have to provide information on product safety anyway. The difference is that, now, these requirements are being combined into one law, digitalized and hopefully harmonized to a greater extent.

But companies must provide not only static but also dynamic data in the battery passport – in other words, data that changes over the course of a battery's life cycle.

Sure, but these are just a few aspects. After all, the only things that can change over the lifetime of a battery are negative events (an accident, for example) and the state of health. And the negative events are already constantly being recorded in cars – for safety reasons alone. For example, every newer car keeps a record of accidents. You don't need any new sensor technology for that. The only thing that really changes in a dynamic way is the state of health – i.e. the current life cycle status. How this is to be determined is still a methodological question that is currently being harmonized worldwide at UN level.

Herausforderungen, die sich bewältigen lassen

Do you still see any challenges?

I can see two challenges. One is the mapping via the internal software in large corporations. It is a very complex undertaking to collate all the data points across the various units and departments at a large automotive or battery manufacturer. But this challenge can be overcome. After all, there are software solutions that already do that. If you buy a car today via a manufacturer's website, this immediately triggers a complex cascade of effects on the data in their production system. Compared to that, the effort involved in the battery passport is almost trivial.

And the second issue?

Some of the data has to be collected across various players in the value chain. And these chains are globally integrated. A company like Volkswagen buys its parts from thousands of manufacturers. And they in turn have suppliers who will also need to provide information. In the case of things like critical raw materials, this is still relatively easy because the data is already available. But when it comes to CO2, it becomes more difficult. However, it is nothing fundamentally new that manufacturers provide their suppliers with lists of requirements, some of which they also pass on to their own suppliers. New digital solutions such as Catena-X are already responding to these requirements, regardless of the battery passport. We expect major synergy effects here.

Large companies may have the necessary financial resources for this. Small and medium-sized companies could be overwhelmed.

These companies should therefore have the option of purchasing the battery passport as a service from service providers, so that they do not have to set up a corresponding system themselves. After all, it is well known that SMEs in particular often still struggle with digitalization. And without such a service offering, they would be at an extreme competitive disadvantage compared to the large corporations.

Does that mean there are no insurmountable hurdles for the battery passport?

In our project, we have set up a software demonstrator that implements the content and technical requirements that we have derived from the regulation. Our technical partners were able to do this within three months. We also know that Asian manufacturers, who dominate the battery market, are already taking this development into account. They are very aware of what lies ahead. And it's not rocket science for these companies to calculate their CO2 footprint. They are already working on the relevant systems. CATL, for example, has already presented a demonstrator for the EU battery passport at the IAA 2023. LG Energy Solutions is closely involved in our work as a supporting partner of The Battery Pass. You can be sure that, by 2027, all car manufacturers and battery producers will be able to present a complete and legally compliant battery passport.

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