"Our country must become a world leader in the recycling and reuse of batteries for electric vehicles" : Georges Gilkinet

A study conducted by GreenImpact, supported by federal Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet, shows enormous potential for the recycling and reuse of batteries for electric vehicles. Minister Gilkinet wants to do everything in his power to position our country at the top of the world.

"Batteries for electric vehicles are not waste, but a source of particularly valuable materials. We have to be smart about it, because we can't just replace our dependence on fossil fuels with the dependence on the rare materials needed for batteries. Our country has all the know-how to become a world leader in the recycling and reuse of batteries for electric vehicles.

An ambitious European regulation was adopted on Friday, allowing different political levels to work together to make the system smoother. Currently, regional differences make the licensing process Kafkaesque for our companies."

Georges Gilkinet, Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister of Mobility

Georges Gilkinet, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mobility, today visited the Belgian company Umicore, a global player in materials technology. The not-for-profit GreenImpact announced today the conclusions of a study that the Minister subsidized, and is also part of the Circular Economy Plan of Ministers of Climate, Zakia Khattabi, and of Economy, Pierre-Yves Dermagne. GreenImpact conducted six months of intensive research with more than thirty experts from Belgium and abroad. What are the most important opportunities and challenges for our country for batteries for electric batteries in terms of energy independence but also in terms of the use of valuable materials? How can we put Belgium in a leadership position?

The study shows that there is enormous potential. But at the moment we are too dependent on valuable materials that are extracted in China, Japan and the Democratic Republic of Congo for the production of batteries for electric vehicles. The European regulation was amended this week to introduce a "battery passport" and an obligation to recycle and reuse materials and to track batteries and their raw materials. This is due to be implemented between 2024 and 2028.

John Frederic, Director GreenImpact: "In light of the pressures from climate change, it is the challenge of this century to become independent regarding the production and recycling of batteries, at least at an European level, in order to support the electrification of our mobility and to facilitate the storage of renewable energy. Belgium can play an important role due to its ideal central location and the already well-developed expertise thanks to leaders such as Umicore. Now is the time to leverage these unique assets and take the driver’s seat, otherwise others will take this place."

In addition, it is important to harmonise policies for both defining waste and obtaining building and environmental permits. Companies like Umicore that recycle rechargeable batteries for reuse on an industrial scale often encounter these kinds of practical obstacles. Batteries for electric vehicles are a valuable source of perfectly recyclable metals. However, they are labeled as "waste" and therefore have to apply for a separate permit in each region, which is expensive and time-consuming.

"The recycling of rechargeable batteries is of strategic and sustainable importance to achieve the transformation to clean, electric mobility. Umicore is committed to carbon-free battery materials by rolling out regional supply chains – from the refining of metals to the production of precursor and cathode materials and their recycling, with the metals recurring as new battery materials.

Recycling provides security of supply for car and battery customers, reduces the need for mining and lowers our carbon footprint. However, legislation lags behind the circular model and needs to be modernised to fully exploit the value and potential of battery materials and thus bring about the successful transformation towards clean mobility. "

Wouter Ghyoot, VP Government Affairs of Umicore

In 2021, there were more than 16.5 million electric cars on the road worldwide: that's a triple in just three years according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). And by 2030, the IEA expects between 148 million and 230 million battery-electric vehicles on the road, accounting for 7 to 12 percent of the global fleet. In the context of the European Green Deal, it was decided that no fossil cars may be produced in Europe by 2035. 

Mobility is an important lever to achieve our Belgian and European climate and environmental objectives (European: -55% CO2 by 2030), because roughly one third of European emissions come from mobility, in Belgium this is about a quarter. The switch to carbon-free transport is therefore a priority, of course with more active modes of transport, more public transport, but also through the switch to zero-emission (shared) cars. While electric cars are therefore an opportunity to combat climate change, it will also be crucial to ensure that they fit within a circular economy now.

Zakia Khattabi, Minister of Climate: "The mobility and transport sector is full of circularity challenges. The integration of the principle of circularity should be considered and integrated into the entire production and life cycle of current and future means of transport. The circularity of batteries for electric vehicles is therefore an important challenge in the context of the energy transition. Together with my colleagues Georges Gilkinet and Tinne Van der Straeten, last October we added a measure to the federal circular economy plan to develop the reuse of batteries from electric vehicles. Another step towards sustainable mobility!"

Tinne Van der Straeten, Minister of Energy: "The circular economy has a major impact on the energy transition. For the production of the required EV batteries, rare raw materials are needed. Circular economy can make an important contribution to solving this scarcity. Belgium is not richly endowed with raw materials and is dependent on imports in a period of increasing geopolitical tensions. What we do have in Belgium is know-how and expertise. I can only applaud a study to do even better."

Media Relations

Caroline Jacobs

Caroline Jacobs

Media Relations Manager
T: +32 2 227 7129