The 3 Main Types of Batteries: Explained

The 3 Main Types of Batteries: Explained

When you think about batteries, you probably categorise them by size and charge capacity—i.e. AA, AAA, etc. But there are actually several distinct types of batteries worth knowing about.

This article will go into detail about three common battery types, explaining what they are, how they work, and how you might use them within your business or industry.

Battery categories

When it comes to batteries, there are two categories to consider—primary and secondary. Primary batteries are single-use, meaning users cannot (or more accurately, should not) recharge them. They’re also commonly known as disposable batteries.

Some popular examples of primary batteries are the standard AA or AAA batteries we use for television remotes, wall clocks, wireless keyboards or computer mice, and children’s toys. 

Secondary batteries, more commonly known as rechargeable batteries, are (as their name implies) rechargeable. The recharging process works by applying an electric current, in turn reversing the chemical reactions that take place during a battery’s discharge.

You might use secondary batteries to power up devices like hearing aids, handheld gaming consoles, mobile phones, and handheld tools. Rechargeable batteries are especially popular within commercial and industrial applications where primary batteries are less economical.

Now, let’s discuss three of the most common battery types within these categories.

Alkaline batteries

Alkaline batteries are the most common type of primary battery. They generally offer better performance than zinc batteries, leading to their slightly higher cost.

This battery type is best for low-drain applications, like portable radios, handheld torches, remote controls, and alarm clocks. They can also supply consistent, reliable power to small devices used around the office, like wireless computer peripherals and LED lights.

Nickel-metal Hydride Batteries

Nickel-metal hydride batteries (abbreviated as NiMH or Ni-MH) are becoming increasingly popular in the world of rechargeable batteries. They boast a significantly greater capacity than the older NiCd rechargeable batteries.

When shopping for AA rechargeable batteries, you’re most likely to find this battery type. They’re especially popular for powering up portable electronics and other high-drain devices, like digital cameras and torches.

NiMH batteries make a fantastic alternative to alkaline batteries if you’re after the convenience of rechargeability.

Lead-acid batteries

Lead-acid batteries are the most common type of rechargeable battery on the market today. They’re especially popular for industrial applications, including the automotive industry.

You’ll also find lead-acid batteries used for:

  • Emergency or backup power generation,
  • Electric or hybrid vehicles,
  • Emergency lighting systems,
  • Communication systems,
  • Inverters,
  • Energy storage.

Compared with your typical primary batteries, lead-acid batteries require significantly more care and maintenance to ensure a long lifespan. 

Organisations commonly choose these batteries for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Lead-acid batteries are better for the environment (thanks to the availability of recycling methods),
  • Lead-acid batteries offer a fantastic energy expenditure per kilowatt-hour;
  • Lead-acid batteries have the longest life cycle of all rechargeable batteries.

A quick summary

So, to summarise, three of the most popular battery types are alkaline, nickel-metal hydride, and lead-acid batteries. The first type falls into the primary (or non-rechargeable) battery category, while the second two types fall into the secondary (or rechargeable) battery category. 

Secondary batteries, like NiMH batteries, are the best option if you want to get the most bang for your buck and do better for the environment.

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