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Lithium vs. Alkaline Batteries: What’s the Difference?

Lithium vs. Alkaline Batteries

Lithium vs. Alkaline Batteries: What’s the Difference?

Undoubtedly, lithium and alkaline batteries are the best options available in today’s market. Both battery types have a reliable power output, but they are made of different materials. Therefore, you need to be careful of their strengths and weaknesses to ensure you buy the most ideal.

For instance, if you want a battery with a consistent power supply, lithium batteries are the best option. However, the big challenge is the hazardous process of recycling them.

On the other hand, alkaline batteries have easier recycling options and are budget-friendly, but you will have to cope with their poor energy-holding capacity. So, before you decide on one option, it would be best to go through our lithium vs alkaline batteries comparison to help you choose the ideal battery for your needs.

Lithium vs. Alkaline Batteries: Side-by-Side Comparison

Lithium BatteriesAlkaline Batteries 
What it is Lithium batteries are one of the best batteries with modern technology and use lithium-ion as the main component in their chemistryAlkaline batteries are reliable batteries that use alkaline potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte
Charging cycles A 4.2 voltage cell allows about 300 to 500 charging cycles, more than any other battery offers todayThey have about 10 recharge cycles
Rechargeable YesTraditional alkaline batteries are non-rechargeable; however, there are modern rechargeable alkaline batteries available on the market, often called “alkaline rechargeable” or “alkaline nickel-metal hydride (NiMH)” batteries
Price Very expensive Relatively cheap
Energy density Have a high energy density of 260-270 wh/kgStandard energy destiny of 50-100 wh/kg
Voltage 3.0 nominal voltage (up to 72 volts or more can be produced by creating lithium battery packs)1.5 nominal voltage 
Shelf life10-12 years 5-10 years 
Fire hazardHighly flammableLess flammable 
Size Size can be customizedThey come in fixed sizes

Lithium vs. Alkaline Batteries: What’s the Difference?

Lithium and alkaline batteries have critical differences you should understand in order to find the most appropriate battery for your device. In our comparison, we look at crucial aspects such as durability, overall performance, and energy output to ensure you understand how each one works. Let’s get started.

Infographic Lithium Batteries vs Alkaline Batteries

Charging Cycles

The lifespan of batteries depends on many factors, but what really counts (for rechargeable batteries) are the charging cycles. Looking at lithium batteries, they offer 300 to 500 charging cycles for 4.2V/cells, 600-1,000 charging cycles for 4.1V/cells, 1,200-2,000 charge cycles for 4.0V/cells, and 2,400-4,000 charge cycles for 3.9V/cells.

It’s worth noting that lithium batteries have a higher number of recharge cycles than any other battery available today. In the case of alkaline batteries, most are designed for single use, so they have a few recharging cycles. Typically, they only have about 10 recharging cycles, but that doesn’t mean they have a short lifespan.  

Shelf Life 

Check on the battery’s shelf life if you intend to install it on a device that isn’t often powered on. Shelf life determines how long the batteries can remain in storage without losing their value.

The good news is that you will never go wrong with either lithium or alkaline batteries, as they both have a lasting shelf life. There are claims that some models of lithium batteries can last up to 20 years if you store them in recommended temperatures. 

Our Pick
Energizer Lithium AA Batteries
$22.99 ($2.87 / Count)
  • Withstand temperatures from -40 degrees F to 140 degrees F
  • Leak-proof
  • Last up to 20 years in storage
  • Perfect for digital cameras, game controllers, and smoke detectors
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
11/28/2023 03:23 pm GMT

On average, alkaline batteries will remain usable for about 5 to 10 years, while lithium batteries usually have a shelf-life of 10-12 years. Although lithium batteries have a better shelf life than alkaline batteries, the difference doesn’t create enough impact to help you make a solid decision. That is why it’s best to check on the other aspects below to ensure you don’t miss out on essential points. 

Energy Holding Capacity and Energy Density

We can’t deny that lithium batteries are way better than alkaline batteries when we compare their energy density. While alkaline batteries offer between 50-100 wh/kg, lithium batteries promise double energy density that ranges from 260-270 wh/kg. 

In terms of their energy holding capacity, an AA alkaline battery provides a capacity of up to 2850 mAh. We shall compare the AA alkaline battery’s capacity with lithium-ion 14500 because they share almost the same properties. Depending on the model, the lithium-ion 14500’s capacity is rated at 1000 mAh to 3,000 mAh. 

Voltage 

The voltage will help you determine the electrical potential of the battery you intend to buy. If you seek to find a battery with high voltage, lithium batteries will undoubtedly fulfil your needs. They have a nominal voltage of 3.0 volts, whereas alkaline batteries offer a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts. 

The difference is clear; lithium batteries beat alkaline batteries by half. But there is more to add to lithium batteries’ victory; you can combine the batteries to create a 72-volt battery pack or even higher. Therefore, you can fully depend on lithium batteries to power up devices that consume a lot of electrical energy.

Weight

Although the weight of batteries isn’t a critical aspect, it’s best to understand their weight to know which fits your device. Alkaline batteries are usually heavier and bulkier than lithium batteries, making them unfit for portable devices such as laptops, cameras, and communication devices. 

Alkaline and lithium AA cells weigh about 23g (0.81 oz) and 15 g (0.53 oz), respectively. Despite alkaline batteries having more weight than lithium batteries, they do not offer the best energy density, which is a turn-off for many buyers. 

Fire Hazard 

While these battery cells are not prone to explosion, it is worth knowing which one, between alkaline and lithium batteries, poses more danger. Lithium batteries are more flammable than alkaline batteries when faulty or exposed to extreme temperatures. They burst into flames easily because of the flammable electrolyte. 

Recharging 

As we had mentioned before, alkaline batteries are designed for single use. However, you can still recharge a dead alkaline battery. We don’t recommend recharging the alkaline cells, as they may overheat and cause an explosion.

Best Value
Amazon Basics 48 Pack AA Alkaline Batteries
$13.06
  • Ten-year shelf life
  • 48-count value pack of 1.5-volt AA alkaline batteries
  • Single-use alkaline batteries
  • Good for devices like clocks, toys, and flashlights
  • Easy-open packaging
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
11/28/2023 03:38 pm GMT

But if you really must recharge your alkaline batteries, note that you need to control the charging cycle to avoid the problem of overheating. In other words, you should turn on the charger for about 30 minutes, then turn it off to allow the battery to cool before restarting the recharging process. 

Unlike alkaline batteries, most Lithium batteries are rechargeable. It is easy to charge lithium cells, but the big challenge is charging them safely. This is because the batteries are highly flammable when overcharged or wrongly connected.

If you buy lithium batteries, always observe the manufacturer’s safety instructions before starting the charging process. Additionally, ensure the battery isn’t damaged and don’t overcharge it to avoid an explosion. 

Consistent Output

You should be extra careful about the battery’s consistent output if you seek one that doesn’t grow weak during its operation. Lithium batteries are very reliable as their power output is consistent, whether fully charged or nearly empty.

This is possible because the lithium ions can move back and forth between the two electrodes. That way, lithium batteries can maintain the same electrical output, irrespective of their charge level. 

On the other hand, alkaline batteries’ voltage falls off significantly with use. It doesn’t offer a consistent output; therefore, we don’t recommend using it on devices that require a consistent power supply such as medical equipment. 

Customized Size

A major difference between these batteries is that alkaline batteries come in a standard size, whereas lithium batteries can be customized depending on your needs. So, if you can’t find a battery that fits your device, you don’t have an option with alkaline batteries.

But in the case of lithium batteries, one can be designed and built to meet your specific requirements. Also, you can ask for a lithium battery with unique or advanced features, such as the ability to withstand extreme heat and robust vibration. 

Price 

We can’t wrap up the difference between lithium and alkaline batteries without considering their prices. Alkaline cells are more budget-friendly than lithium batteries. Well, that is to be expected considering the fact that lithium batteries are made of expensive metal, which costs roughly $80,000 (price expected to go up in 2023). 

Although lithium batteries are more powerful than alkaline batteries, they won’t be an option if you plan on a tight budget. But if money is not a challenge, lithium batteries are cost-effective as they have more recharge cycles and last longer. Therefore, you can use a lithium battery for an extended period without purchasing another. 

Lithium vs. Alkaline Batteries: 7 Must-Know Facts

  1. Most alkaline batteries were designed for single use, which means they’re non-rechargeable, while most lithium batteries were designed to be rechargeable. 
  2. Lithium batteries boast a charging cycle that goes up to 500 times. That is better than any battery you will find on the market today, including alkaline batteries.
  3. Lithium batteries are more flammable than alkaline batteries when exposed to extreme temperatures or when damaged. Therefore, you should be extra careful while charging your lithium cells. 
  4. Lithium batteries have higher energy density than alkaline batteries. While alkaline cells offer between 50 and 100 wh/kg, lithium cells provide double energy density ranging from 260 to 270 wh/kg.
  5. Alkaline batteries are way cheaper than lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are expensive because they use lithium (which is expensive) and incorporate features that make them more powerful than their competitors.
  6. Alkaline batteries come in standard sizes, whereas lithium batteries can be customized to suit buyers’ unique requirements. 
  7. Lithium batteries provide high battery voltage of up to 3 volts. Additionally, you can combine the batteries to create a 72-volt battery pack, or even higher. In contrast, alkaline batteries lag with a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts.

Lithium vs. Alkaline Batteries: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Overall, lithium batteries are the best. However, there are instances when alkaline batteries will be more suitable than lithium batteries. It all depends on the equipment you plan to use. 

If your device demands a constant power supply and high-voltage electricity, you should use lithium batteries. A big advantage of lithium batteries is that they have a consistent power output and deliver high voltage. In addition, they have many charge cycles so you can use them for an extended period. 

On the other hand, alkaline batteries are more suitable for electronic products that aren’t power beasts, such as remote controls, MP3 players, smoke alarms, toys, and wireless microphones.

Remember that alkaline cells pose lower fire hazards than lithium batteries, making them best for home devices. Also, they don’t contain toxic chemicals, so you can quickly dispose of them.    

  1. Energizer Lithium AA Batteries
    $22.99 ($2.87 / Count)
    • Withstand temperatures from -40 degrees F to 140 degrees F
    • Leak-proof
    • Last up to 20 years in storage
    • Perfect for digital cameras, game controllers, and smoke detectors
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    11/28/2023 03:23 pm GMT
  2. Amazon Basics 48 Pack AA Alkaline Batteries
    $13.06
    • Ten-year shelf life
    • 48-count value pack of 1.5-volt AA alkaline batteries
    • Single-use alkaline batteries
    • Good for devices like clocks, toys, and flashlights
    • Easy-open packaging
    Buy Now on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    11/28/2023 03:38 pm GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

What battery type is best?

Undoubtedly, lithium batteries are the best today. No battery can match lithium cells’ chemistry and power output. They have the highest number of charging cycles, high voltage, and more than twice the energy-holding capacity of regular batteries.

Which lasts longer, lithium or alkaline batteries?

Lithium batteries last longer than alkaline batteries. They are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions, so they aren’t damaged like other regular batteries.

Typically, lithium batteries last about 10-12 years, whereas alkaline batteries will serve you between 5-10 years. Some experts claim lithium batteries can last up to 20 years, making them more durable than any other battery on the market today.

Are lithium and alkaline batteries rechargeable?

Both batteries have rechargeable and non-rechargeable options. Most alkaline batteries are non-rechargeable, whereas a good number of lithium batteries are rechargeable. The charging process of both batteries is easy, but you should be careful not to overcharge them as they can explode.

Which battery is hazardous?

All batteries are hazardous, but lithium batteries are the most dangerous. They are highly flammable when exposed to extreme heat or when they’re damaged. Also, lithium batteries can easily explode during charging.

Therefore, you should connect them properly and ensure you don’t overcharge them. Finally, if you don’t dispose of lithium batteries properly, they will negatively affect the environment as they contain toxic chemicals.

Can lithium and alkaline batteries be used interchangeably?

No, lithium and alkaline batteries cannot be used interchangeably because they have different chemistries and different voltage outputs. Using the wrong type of battery in a device can damage the device or cause it to malfunction.

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