Guide to Rechargeable Tool Batteries

By: Julie Day

Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) Batteries

Advantages of Li-Ion Batteries

    Lithium-ion battery

    Lithium-ion batteries are the newest.

  • Most Powerful: Li-Ion battery cells have the highest voltage of all battery types. Since each cell holds more power, fewer cells are needed for the same performance.
  • Longest Run Time: Li-Ion batteries have the longest run time without recharging.
  • Hold Charge Best: Li-Ion batteries also have the lowest discharge rate when left on the shelf.
  • Best in Cold Weather: Go ahead and take Li-Ion batteries outdoors on a winter’s day – they’ll work just fine.
  • Lightest: Lithium is so light that it floats on water, and Li-Ion powered tools are the lightest of them all.
  • Leak-Proof: Li-Ion batteries don’t contain any liquid, so leakage isn’t a problem.
  • More Charges: Some Li-Ion batteries boast up to 2,000 charges, compared with an average of about 500 for nickel-based batteries.
  • No Memory Effect: Li-Ion batteries can be recharged repeatedly, when needed, without any decrease in performance.

Disadvantages of Li-Ion Batteries

    Lithium-ion drill with internal battery

    Integrated lithium-ion battery in drill.

  • Expensive: Li-Ion batteries are the most expensive of the three types.
  • Shortest Life: Li-Ion batteries degrade over time. So even though you might get more charges, Li-Ion batteries will need replacing every few years whether you use them or not. So go ahead and use it – chances are you’ll never reach the maximum number of recharges before time takes its toll.
  • Longest Recharge: Li-Ion technology is fairly fragile, with complex circuitry to prevent damage to the electrodes, making the recharge process for Li-Ion batteries more complicated and longer than the other types.
  • Heat Sensitive: When Li-Ion batteries overheat, they can explode, so they need to be kept safe and out of direct sun or hot cars.
  • Specialized: Unlike nickel-based batteries, Li-Ion batteries don’t come in standard sizes (such as AAA, C, etc.). They also are often specially designed for each tool, so chargers aren’t interchangeable.
  • Might Be Nonreplaceable: Some Li-Ion tools have an integrated battery, which means it can’t be replaced. Be aware of this when choosing your tools – the ones with integrated batteries have convenient little charging cords (like your cell phone), but you’ll have to replace the whole tool when it dies.

Further Information

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