5 Types of Rechargeable Batteries (And When to Use Them)

There are 3 billion batteries sold every year in the United States alone. 

This comes to an average of about 32 batteries per person. Not all of these batteries are rechargeable; there are several different types available. 

Rechargeable batteries are unique in that they don’t have to be thrown away once used. The most common type of rechargeable battery that people are familiar with is in their phones. This is a lithium-ion battery, but more on the different types as we continue. 

Types of Rechargeable Batteries

There are five types of rechargeable batteries that are in common use in the modern world. What separates them is how they are made and what materials are used in their construction. Rechargeable batteries have been around for decades, but technological increases have made them more attractive. 

1. Lithium-Ion Battery

Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight batteries that offer a high energy density. Lithium-based batteries are the best energy-dense conductors that we are aware of. Technology in the area of lithium batteries is a constant evolution of engineering and scientific understanding. 

These batteries are what powers our cell phones and tablets. They are also the basis of technology to make electrical flight possible. They do this by providing a lot of energy for their weight, making them useful in any application where weight matters. 

This combination of lightweight and high energy density has made lithium batteries the chosen battery of most new technologies. Various permutations of these batteries exist and are continuously improved. Some researchers note that we are only now beginning to understand all the applications of this technology. 

2. Lead-Acid Battery

Lead-acid batteries are also one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries. They work better than lithium batteries in cold weather but don’t have as long of a lifespan. These types of batteries provide a great deal of power, but they are heavy. 

In most cars, lead-acid batteries are what powers them and allows them to start in even the harshest of conditions. They are a low-cost battery and have been around for well over 100 years. This combination of reliable energy with a moderate life cycle makes these batteries very popular. 

3. Nickel-Cadmium Batteries

This type of rechargeable battery was made popular by their use in power tools and carry devices like two-way radios. These batteries have a long lifespan and can be recharged many times, but they are susceptible to memory issues. This is where a battery can’t be fully charged until completely drained.

Nickel-cadmium batteries were once more popular than they are now but have fallen out of favor because they are not environmentally-friendly. They are still used for applications that require a low level of power but a long lifespan of the battery. 

A major negative about these batteries is their use of cadmium. Cadmium is highly toxic, and exposure to it is very dangerous. When not properly disposed, these batteries pose a considerable threat to not just the environment, but anyone who comes into contact with them. 

4. Nickel-Metal Batteries

The nickel-metal battery is an alternative to cadmium batteries. It is used in situations where frequent use is expected and does not fall prey to the memory effect. This makes them excellent for use in appliances like toothbrushes, and even some vehicles use them. 

Nickel-metal hydride batteries don’t work well in applications where they won’t be used very often. This causes them to decay and become less useful. Otherwise, they were once the chief battery used for consumer products before lithium batteries began to replace them. 

5. Solid-State Lithium Batteries

Unlike lithium-ion batteries that are so popular, lithium polymer batteries use a solid-state electrolyte. This is the material that conducts and holds the energy. These types of batteries are on the cutting edge of battery technology. 

Lithium-polymer batteries are even lighter weight than their lithium-ion counterparts. They are able to hold the same charge and release it at the same voltage. This makes them very attractive for unique purposes, and as such, they are still being developed for use in the consumer market. 

One reason for their rise in popularity is that they do not have a specific shape. These types of batteries can be formed to fit as needed. This advantage is unique in terms of battery technology, though it isn’t currently well exploited. 

Lithium Battery Advantages

Lithium batteries are claiming the market because of the efficiency with which they deliver power. They have a long life and are considered to be the finest material for batteries as we understand it today. This makes them a very popular choice. 

They are less environmentally harmful than other types of batteries. When comparing lithium vs lead acid batteries, there is no comparison in terms of usefulness. As technology continues to advance lithium batteries are making steady progress in dominating the battery market. 

Environmental Impact

If batteries are recycled, they do not have as negative an impact as was once believed. The problem with this is that many of these batteries were invented before environmental concerns were commonplace. The use of heavy elements like lead and cadmium poses a considerable threat to the environment. 

Of all the different types of rechargeable batteries in use, lithium impacts the environment least. That is not to say that they should be thrown in the trash. If left in a landfill, batteries tend to pollute the ground and nearby water sources with these heavy elements. 

Rechargeable Batteries Can Help the World

As the knowledge of our activity and the impact it has on the planet are becoming more well known, rechargeable batteries are more important now than ever. Lithium batteries and even other forms of rechargeable batteries help reduce the amount of waste generated by disposable batteries. 

More and more industries are transferring to various types of rechargeable batteries. This trend will continue to grow as the cost and effectiveness of recharging technology improves. Lithium-ion batteries and polymer batteries will continue to dominate the industry for the foreseeable future.

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