A few days ago, the new European Commission adopted its first Work Programme: a true testament to our commitment to build “a Union that strives for more”. It tells the story of what we want to achieve this year. At the same time, it shows the direction we want to take for the next five years and beyond.

We strive for more especially when it comes to the biggest challenge of our generation: the twin ecological and digital transition, which will affect every part of our society and every one of us.

Under the European Green Deal, we will propose a legally binding 2050 climate neutrality target. We will also continue to build Europe’s strategic independence in the battery sector, potentially worth EUR 250 billion annually from 2025 onwards.

The European Battery Alliance – that I will continue to lead within the Commission – is a key enabler to our long-term vision for a climate neutral economy and in particular, for the transformation of clean mobility and energy sectors.

The electrification and roll-out of renewable energy will further push the demand for batteries. In Europe alone, it is expected to increase to 800 GWh by 2030. For instance, the BNEF report predicts that by 2040, 57 percent of global passenger car sales will be electric and represent 30 percent of the global vehicle fleet. Furthermore, Europe is set to become the second largest market for EVs in the 2020s, behind China.

Our objective is crystal clear

Batteries are a strategic technology and production that Europe has to master, if we want to remain the global leader in automotive industry and in clean energy systems as well as to create jobs in Europe. Many decisive steps have been taken – at truly light speed – but many still need to be taken.

First, we need to establish an EU legal framework setting out the mandatory use and sustainability criteria for batteries placed on the EU market. My objective is to have this framework in place by 2022-2023 to be ready when we are likely to see the start of mass manufacturing in Europe.

Second, we need to improve access to raw materials as well as our refining capacity, as this is a key strategic issue for the battery value chain.

Third, we must tackle the issue of skill shortages upfront. And fourth, we must continue to prioritise our investment in research and innovation because their link with competitiveness is what will define our strategic autonomy and resilience in the 21st century.

As we want to reap a fair share of the growing market for batteries, expectations vis-à-vis advancements on battery research side are enormous. We need batteries with higher energy density, better performance, based on new advanced materials and very high sustainability criteria.

To succeed, Europe should not only invest in improving lithium-based battery technologies and in the upcoming next generation of solid-state battery technologies, but it should also look further ahead.

An industrial blueprint

This truly successful story of the European Battery Alliance could be replicated in other sectors, such as the European digital infrastructure and hydrogen. The strategic value chains will be at the core of the upcoming Industrial Strategy for the 21st century to be tabled by the Commission in March this year.

At the same time, the European Battery Alliance is a vibrant example of strategic foresight that we now want to embed into all our policy-making. 

Even if at the 12th hour, we had anticipated the upcoming tectonic shift towards e-mobility. With the industry leading, we therefore started to act strategically to produce the greenest batteries here, in Europe.

As a result, we have created manufacturing partnerships and projects throughout the value chain. We have boosted our innovation ecosystem. We have joined forces with Member States, regions, private and public investors throughout Europe to produce at scale.

Now Europe is on track to catch up with our Asian competitors and the sustainable future of our automotive industry seems secured.

A culture of anticipation, preparedness and resilience 

As Europe enters this new decade, marked by fundamental shifts in many areas, strategic foresight – alongside the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – will be an important compass to guide our work across all sectors.

Strategic technologies are a source of future prosperity and jobs, but they are also a source of global influence. And I want Europe to stand on the global medal podium in 2030 and in 2050. 

Therefore, we will keep a sharp eye on the long-term trends and major shifts on the horizon, so we can shape and deploy policies that will help Europe get ahead of the curve.

There is no doubt in my mind that Europe has what it takes to achieve all this.

+ posts

Maroš Šefčovič is European Commission Vice President for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight