NiCad vs. Li-Ion Batteries

Why it is time to make the switch to Lithium-Ion batteries

We are experiencing a major shift in battery technology. The last 30 years were dominated by nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries. This technology kicked off the popular cordless tool revolution and enabled people to complete tasks without being tethered to an electrical socket.

Since technology is always advancing, a new alternative to NiCad batteries emerged – lithium-ion (Li-ion). While traditional NiCad batteries had their place in history, the features and benefits offered by Li-ion batteries have pointed most power-tool users in their direction. These are the reasons you should make the switch to Li-ion.

Longer battery life
While their price may be a little higher, Li-ion batteries have a greater cycle life meaning they can be recharged more often thus extending time between replacement which is especially important to heavy users.

Lighter weight with a compact design
Those who use cordless tools a lot will enjoy the fact that lithium-ion batteries are much lighter than NiCad batteries. This reduced weight can make a world of difference through the course of a work day. Li-ion batteries typically weigh 30-40 percent less than the comparable NiCad battery. Fatigue, and the safety issues that coincide, are greatly reduced thus providing a safer work environment.

The smaller, lower density battery cell is the main reason for the lighter weight. The smaller cells allow for more compact battery assemblies thus offering more versatility to tool designers and the end users.

Faster charge time
Li-ion batteries charge faster than their NiCad equivalent. Once the battery is at full charge, there is little overcharge tolerance, if any. On the flip side, overcharging NiCad batteries can damage them resulting in a shorter life span.

Zero memory effect
Instructions for NiCad battery operated tools typically suggest draining the battery before recharging. The reason for this is to limit the “memory” effect on the battery which causes them to hold less charge thus losing their maximum energy capacity. Li-ion batteries can be charged at any time without any negative consequences.

Constant power
How many times have you tried to get a screw flush with the working surface, and your drill slowly loses power and eventually can’t turn the screw any more leaving 1/4” of the screw exposed? NiCad batteries slowly lose power and the effect is extremely noticeable. One of the biggest benefits of the Li-ion battery is its ability to provide full power throughout the entire battery’s capacity. The power only subsides when the battery’s charge is depleted. You get full power all the way to the end of the charge.

Lower self-discharge rate
Both types of batteries gradually discharge their power when they are not in use. The self-discharge rate of Li-ion is estimated to be between 1.5 and 2 percent. When compared to the NiCad of more than 10 percent, Li-ion versions are far superior.

NiCad batteries are losing (if not have already lost) the battle to be the industry standard. In fact, Europe has already banned their use…a move that could easily spread to other areas of the world. The features of Lithium-Ion batteries far outweigh those of the old NiCad technology. If you have not made the switch, the time has arrived.

Author: Kevin Jones
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