Batteries available in the market are usually classified as primary batteries and rechargeable batteries.

Primary batteries are sometimes called “throw-away” batteries because they will be discarded when they are flat, as they cannot be recharged for reuse. Common types of primary batteries include alkaline, zinc carbon, lithium, silver oxide and zinc air batteries.

Rechargeable batteries can be recharged and reused for up to 1000 times depending on usage conditions. Common types of rechargeable batteries include Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) and Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries.

Battery types

Voltage (V)

Common usages
Primary

Alkaline 1.5v
CD/MD/MP3 players, toys, cameras, remote controls

Carbon zinc 1.5v

Clocks, radios, smoke alarm

Lithium coin 3.0v
Calculators, electronic organizers

Lithium photo 3.0 / 6.0v
Cameras

Silver oxide 1.55v
Watches

Zinc air 1.4v

Hearing aids
Rechargeable

NiMH 1.2v
Digital cameras, portable CD, MD, MP3 players, remote controlled racing toy cars

NiCd 1.2v
Portable CD, MD, MP3 players, remote controlled racing toy cars

Li-ion 3.6-3.7v
Notebook computers, PDAs, mobile phones, camcorders, digital cameras

You may have come across terms like “heavy duty”, “super heavy duty”, and “longer lasting”. However, they do not necessarily reflect the service time of batteries, as battery performance depends very much on intrinsic qualities.

Despite the higher initial cost, alkaline batteries last five to ten times longer than zinc carbon batteries on higher current drains, making it more economical when the current drain is high.

Rechargeable batteries are more expensive than alkaline batteries especially when you include the upfront cost of the charger. However do not forget that they can be recharged up to 1000 times. Hence they end up much more economical in the long run.

NiCd and NiMH batteries display similar characteristics, but for the same size, NiMH batteries can double the run time compared with NiCd batteries per charge.

To be a smart consumer, you have to understand the power consumption requirement of your electronic device before deciding on which battery to go for. Generally speaking, high power consumption electronic devices operate under high current condition.

NiMH batteries will provide the longest operating time. Besides, they can be recharged up to 1000 times. Hence the cost per unit energy is much lower than alkaline and carbon zinc batteries.

Alkaline batteries are best used for moderate power consumption electronic devices.

Zinc carbon batteries are the best choice for extremely low power consumption electronic devices.

Quick Battery Selection Guide
Power Requirement Electronic Devices Recommended Batteries
High Digital cameras NiMH batteries,
Nickel zinc batteries
High Handheld TV
Portable MD/MP3/CD players
PDAs
Handheld game NiMH batteries
Moderate To High Walkman
MD/MP3/CD players
Torch Alkaline batteries
Low Clock radio
Remote control
Smoke alarm Zinc carbon batteries

NiMH & NiCd batteries share the same nominal voltage of 1.2V per cell, whereas batteries using a different type of chemistry system: Lithium ion batteries provide a voltage of 3.6 – 3.7V.

Yes, NiMH batteries are ideal substitutes in most cases, especially in high power consumption electronic devices.

Although alkaline batteries are rated at a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts, as they begin discharging, their voltage continuously drops. Over the course of discharge, the average voltage of alkaline batteries is in fact about 1.2 volts, very close to NiMH batteries. The main difference is that an alkaline battery starts at 1.5 volts and gradually drops to less than 1.0 volt, while NiMH batteries stay at about 1.2 volts for most of the service time.