Learn the positives and negatives of alkaline batteries, lithium batteries, nickel-cadmium batteries, nickel-metal hydride batteries, and zinc batteries.

Battery Type Comparison Chart

Why are there different kinds of batteries? What are the advantages or disadvantages of different battery types? Learn the ins and outs of the different battery types with our helpful comparison chart.




Non Rechargeable–Available in both classes (primary and secondary) and named for their Alkaline electrolyte, these batteries first gained popularity in the 1970’s.

Notable for its long shelf life the alkaline non-rechargeable battery is the most common type of household battery. Although standard Alkaline batteries aren’t a good choice for use in high-drain devices like digital cameras, some manufacturers have recently developed new Alkaline battery types especially for use in high-drain items.

Rechargeable– Alkaline rechargeable batteries are lower capacity (don’t hold a charge as long) than the more popular NiMH rechargeables Additionally they aren’t ‘fully rechargeable’. Each time you recharge them, Alkaline batteries lose a portion of their capacity and additionally offer fewer recharge cycles (as few as 10) than the NiMH.

The advantage of the rechargeable Alkaline over the NiMH or the NiCAD is that it loses its charge gradually, giving you some notice that it’s time to switch batteries. NiMH and NiCADS are more prone to steep drops in power when they’re ready to be recharged.

Another benefit is that Rechargeable Alkalines put out more voltage than NiMH batteries (1.5 V as compared to 1.2 V). So, they make the light a little brighter in your LED flashlight.

Rechargeable Alkalines also have a lower self-discharge rate than NiMH’s, making them more ability to sit on the shelf between periods of use.

One advantage of Alkaline batteries is that neither type contains toxic metals and both types can be disposed of in your trash. Of course, in most cases you’ll throw out fewer rechargeables than non-rechargeables, making the rechargeable Alkaline battery the better buy of the two.


Lithium batteries come in two types– the Lithium-ion battery pack and Lithium-photo batteries.

Rechargeable– Lithium-ion batteries are the batteries most often used in good laptops, cell phones, and camcorders. Rechargeable, but unavailable in general household sizes (AA, B, D, etc.), the lithium-ion battery has an excellent power to rate ratio. Lithium ion batteries are usually recharged either in a special recharger or when installed in the unit they power.

Non-Rechargeable–Lithium photo batteries are not rechargeable and are usually more expensive at the checkout than other non-rechargeable batteries.

Used in cameras because of their ability to handle and supply power surges, the lithium photo battery is also the battery of choice for remote controlled toys. Also a good choice for long-term use in appliances like battery operated clocks and smoke detectors, the 9-volt Lithium has a low self-discharge rate, a long shelf life, and may last up to 10 years before it needs replacement substantially off-setting its more expensive price.

A major disadvantage of lithium batteries is that they contain toxins and require disposal at a hazardous waste station.

Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad)

Rechargeable–The forerunner to the NiMH, NiCAD rechargeable batteries are now nearly obsolete. They are lower capacity than either NiMH or Alkaline rechargeables and have the further disadvantage of containing toxic metals that require hazardous waste disposal.

NiCAD batteries are also said to suffer from the ‘memory effect’. If you recharge a NiCAD before it’s power supply is nearly drained, the battery ‘remembers’ the last point at which it was recharged and will never become fully charged again.

Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH)

Rechargeable– NiMH rechargeable batteries have replaced the NiCAD.

Lightweight and rechargeable, the NiMH has a higher capacity than the NiCAD plus you can throw it away since it doesn’t contain toxic metals and it isn’t classed as a hazardous waste item.
The main disadvantage of the NiMH is that it comes in different capacities. So you need to check to be sure that the NiMH you buy has the capacity your device needs to operate. High capacity NiMH batteries may not charge completely in some battery chargers.

A final present disadvantage to NiMH batteries is that like the NiCADs, they have less voltage than Alkaline batteries. However, as technology changes, more manufacturers develop appliances that accept lower voltages. Additionally, in devices that require only one or two batteries, the slight difference in voltage won’t usually make a difference in performance.
Shelf life of the NiMH is short, just two to three months and when not in use, they self-discharge at a rate up to 25% per month. So the NiMH isn’t a good choice for rarely activated devices like emergency flashlights and smoke detectors.


Non-rechargeable– Often called General Purpose or Heavy Duty Batteries, Zinc-carbon and Zinc-chloride batteries don’t have the capacity of and are more prone to leak than Alkaline batteries.

Sold most often in AA, C, and D sizes, these batteries were first the forerunner and later an inexpensive alternative to Alkaline batteries. However, reductions in the price of Alkalines have made both Zinc-Carbon and Zinc-Chloride batteries all but obsolete.