Of the new generation of super-thin “ultrabook” laptops only two of 28 major models, Sony’s Vaio T13 and HP Elite Book Folio 9470, have the environmentally friendly function of user-replaceable batteries, according to a report by The Electronics TakeBack Coalition.
The report, titled Ultra-Inconvenient, argues that when batteries are not replaceable by users, more computers are getting shipped to service centers – increasing carbon emissions in the process – for relatively simple repairs. And by complicating the battery replacement process, manufacturers are discouraging longer use and reuse, the report says.
In many cases replacing the battery is not a difficult process for consumers with the right tools, but can often cause warranty issues, the report says.
Vizio sells an ultrabook that it says has a user-changeable battery, but doing so requires the consumer to open up the back of the laptop, invalidating the battery’s warranty in the process, the report says. Acer and Dell say that a consumer taking the initiative to change the battery will void warranties only if the battery replacement causes damage to the unit.
What the Electronics TakeBack Coalition calls “the most extreme” example of a design making it difficult to replace the battery is the Apple MacBook Pro with retina display, where the battery is secured in the laptop with industrial-strength glue, the report says.
Most of the manufacturers’ product specs do not disclose that the battery is not replaceable. Only Dell, Toshiba, and Apple give clear information about this in their technical specs, the report says.
This design trend shows why programs like EPEAT, where electronic products are graded against environmentally preferable purchasing criteria, are needed, the report says. However, the EPEAT standards for computers, which are about to be revised, currently have no criteria that reward companies for prolonging the life of their products by making laptop and tablet batteries user-replaceable, the report says.
Earlier this year Apple removed its products from EPEAT’s sustainability rating system. Some online commentators speculated that the MacBook Pro’s tough disassembly was behind Apple’s withdrawal from the standard – since under EPEAT, manufacturers must show that recyclers can easily disassemble their products and separate batteries and other toxic components.
Within days, Apple had rejoined EPEAT and assigned Gold ratings under the system to four models of the MacBook Pro with Retina display. EPEAT’s certifications are based on a self-declaration system, which is then backed by post-market verification.