Skip

double A enters, one A leaves
September 14, 2012 8:09 AM   Subscribe

As far as we are aware, this is the largest scale discharge test of consumer batteries that has been performed. Battery Showdown!
posted by DU (48 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Via
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on September 14, 2012


NOW do you see why the electric vehicle revolution is underway? :)

Lithium batteries are finally enabling realistic, usable performance for cars. It's now simply a matter of driving down the cost, and that's already happening.
posted by intermod at 8:21 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


No Rayovac. Guess only Michael Jordan uses them.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:22 AM on September 14, 2012


Thank you for this! Just last night I was considering crafting an AskMeFi question about where to buy batteries and which to purchase. I guess the second part of that question is answered.
posted by montag2k at 8:23 AM on September 14, 2012


intermod, lithium and lithium-ion are two different battery technologies. Lithium batteries are not rechargeable.

That said, the price/performance of LiIon rechargeables have gotten so good (especially the low-self-discharge variety, e.g. Eneloops) that I think a good case could be made for disposable batteries to be banned.
posted by esoterica at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2012


Well, montag2k, the article includes information about where they bought the article, so clearly the answer to the first part is: in the UK.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 8:27 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pfft. My Apple Magic Mouse will still eat any of the contenders like they're Scooby Snacks.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:29 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Huh. I bought a pack of those Kirkland batteries a couple of years ago, and put some into an indoor/outdoor thermometer, the wireless kind with a remote sensor, so two sets of batteries.

After 18 months, including two winters, it was still working just fine, and I figured I'd better replace them, just in case. I didn't think to test their voltage levels, stupid me, but it didn't occur to me that the batteries were that good. They were so cheap that I assumed the thermometer was the reason for the extremely long life.

But, lo and behold, they're near the top of the low-drain tests, do well on the high-drain tests, and they're really cheap. Easy to get, too, if you're anywhere near a Costco. Only real downside is that they come in giganto-packs.

Also interesting that Kodak batteries are even better, in terms of battery per buck, though only a little, and the Costco batteries last a fair bit longer. Honestly, they're just about a tossup.... do you want the most battery for your dollar, or you want a slightly less cost-effective battery that lasts somewhat longer under low-drain conditions? Changing batteries is enough of a hassle that I'm feeling surprisingly validated for buying the Costco batteries, but I'd probably feel equally validated if I'd gone the other way. If you can get the Kodak batteries in less than packs of 25, then I'd call the Kodaks the clear winners.

I love Costco. Their great stuff is absolutely superb, and their worst stuff is never crap. It may not be wonderful, but it isn't crap.
posted by Malor at 8:30 AM on September 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


Can anyone recommend an equivalent review of rechargeable batteries? I have this feeling that in the year 2012 it must be feasible to buy (nearly) direct from a manufacturer and skip the whole battery branding exercise.
posted by anthill at 8:30 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


On electric car viability: go drive one. They are so. much. fun. Even a LEAF or Focus, you put your foot down and wooooooooosh, silent and strong instantaneous power. Even better than driving a car with a rotary, or a super-smooth Honda mk I TSX, it makes getting back into a normal car feel clunky and old-fashioned.
posted by davejay at 8:32 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is great information. Thanks, DU.
posted by notashroom at 8:32 AM on September 14, 2012


esoterica: "I think a good case could be made for disposable batteries to be banned."

Sarah Palin turns and sniffs the wind, catching a scent on the breeze.
posted by boo_radley at 8:40 AM on September 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


The low-drain discharge of 200mA is designed to represent a typical light load on a battery that a toy, CD/MP3 player, torch or similar product may demand from a battery.

Those lucky people in the U.K., with their battery-powered torches. It must make gathering angry mobs so much easier.
posted by Curious Artificer at 8:41 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I like this, but they should rotate all those charts 90 degrees to the right. My neck hurts.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:43 AM on September 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those lucky people in the U.K., with their battery-powered torches.

It's a pain gathering all that pitch for their forks, though.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:45 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


esoterica: That said, the price/performance of LiIon rechargeables have gotten so good (especially the low-self-discharge variety, e.g. Eneloops) that I think a good case could be made for disposable batteries to be banned.

Those are nickel-metal hydride, not LiIon. If there is any lithium-ion replacement for conventional batteries, I haven't heard about it (for one thing the voltage would be way too high).

As far as banning conventional batteries, that's obviously a bad idea. There are tons of good emergency applications for disposable batteries. The shelf life is still much longer, even than the low-self-discharge units, and a lot of them will only be used once or twice or never at all, making the higher initial cost of the NiMH cells pretty wasteful. I think rechargeable batteries are also a lot more energy-intensive to manufacture and use more valuable materials.

posted by Mitrovarr at 8:48 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kirkland in the UK is the same as Kirkland in the US?


I must have gotten a bad batch then, because the multipack of batteries I got from Costco was horrible. Maybe I should take the remaining ones back.
posted by madajb at 8:52 AM on September 14, 2012


Fun Facts about lithium batteries:

-Lithium batteries are much more susceptible to abuse damage than other battery types.

-The typical failure method of a lithium battery is called "thermal runaway". Basically, the battery (or more commonly, one cell inside the battery) is damaged which causes a short circuit and overheating. Eventually it gets hot enough to ignite the metallic lithium, which then acts as its own activator - lithium reactions are highly exothermic, so it heats up, which causes the lithium to react, which causes more heat to be released, which causes more lithium to react. This will quickly spread to other cells in the battery.

-THERE ARE NO FIRE EXTINGUISHERS THAT CAN PUT OUT A LITHIUM FIRE. Chemical extinguishers work by depriving the fire of oxygen, but the lithium is still so hot that it will quickly reignite. Water will only make things worse, since lithium reacts very strongly with water. Don't put water on a lithium fire! (Lithium-ion batteries are slightly different and can be extinguished with water or halon.)

-Lithium batteries have been the cause of several fatal and non-fatal air cargo accidents. Since they can't be extinguished until all of the lithium is used up, battery fires on aircraft will just burn and burn until it destroys the airplane.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:55 AM on September 14, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ford makes disposable batteries in Europe? You guys will buy anything.
posted by pistolswing at 8:57 AM on September 14, 2012


Using an ARM Cortex™-M4 based STM32 datalogger which got bored and abandoned the project partway through...
posted by Wolfdog at 8:58 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bought a pack of those Kirkland batteries a couple of years ago... Only real downside Another upside is that they come in giganto-packs.

I was pleased to see the Kirkland's so high on the list. I've been very happy with them, but never really knew if they were better than others or just good enough for the price.
posted by The Deej at 9:02 AM on September 14, 2012


anthill: Can anyone recommend an equivalent review of rechargeable batteries?

The nice thing about rechargeables is they they usually come with the capacity right on the package, so you have a better idea what you're buying. The premium name in NiMH batteries is probably Sanyo; their 'Eneloops' are the low-discharge kind of NiMH. This means they're a fair bit lower for total capacity, but they don't self-discharge that quickly, where regular NiMHs will last no more than a couple of months, and it's not good to leave them flat.

Typically, premium-grade high-self-discharge NiMH AAs are about 2750MAh, and the Eneloops are right about 2K. I think regular NiMH AAAs are about 1250MAh, though my memory's a bit blurry there, while I'm sure the AAA Eneloops are about 800. They're quite a bit more expensive, though.

I've found Thomas Distributing, despite their fairly primitive website, to be a very good battery source. Their house brand is Maha, and while I've only bought Panasonic and Sanyo batteries from them, I like their Maha chargers really well. I gather the batteries are pretty good too, but when I was last buying (about a year ago), I wanted Eneloops.

Oh, the Panasonic batteries I was replacing with Sanyos were pretty crap, actually. I had good memories of the brand because they used to make such good dot matrix printers in the late 80s, but I was Not Impressed with their batteries. Not well matched, didn't hold a charge well, wore out very, very quickly. The Eneloops have been outstanding... they all hold about what they're supposed to, all very close to 800MAh, so I don't have to take the time to pair them by capacity or any such nonsense. I've been very happy with them, they've powered many, many hours of light for my little reading lamp, and they hardly seem to be losing any capacity. Truly excellent products.

Oh, another nice bit about NiMH batteries is that they aren't toxic. Both NiCD and lithium ion/polymer batteries have really evil, horrible elements in them (the cadmium and the lithium, respectively), but apparently there's no particular environmental issues with NiMH. They're mostly nickel, typically with some potassium hydroxide. That's a strong base, and pretty nasty in that regard, but it's not poisonous, just caustic. It's a form of lye, which is used to make soap.
posted by Malor at 9:04 AM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Ford makes disposable batteries in Europe? You guys will buy anything."

Depressingly, the Ford cars sold in Eupope outperform their American cousins in just about every way but size. Indeed, there is no replacement for displacement after all.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:13 AM on September 14, 2012


I used to have a pile of Maha NiMH batteries that I got from Thomas. They all died young. I've had good luck with the Duracell low-discharge NiMHs.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:55 AM on September 14, 2012


Okay, now I need the longest-lasting 9 volt for my pain-in-the-ass smoke detectors...
posted by tommyD at 10:10 AM on September 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised their tests run till the output voltage is 0.8V. I'm reasonably certain that for everything I use AA batteries for the device stops working effectively long before that.
posted by phearlez at 10:12 AM on September 14, 2012


Sarah Palin turns and sniffs the wind, catching a scent on the breeze.

Is this a line from the sequel to the Shia Lebouef song?
posted by FatherDagon at 10:41 AM on September 14, 2012


Was gonna add to Malor; for rechargeables, just get some Sanyo Eneloops and a Maha charger . That combo is just golden. Works, last forever, great investment. Gone are the days that a rechargeable discharges itself over the weekend in a drawer -- I charged some batteries months ago, put a meter on 'im this weekend, and they were hot and fresh.
posted by cavalier at 10:52 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bought some Panasonic AA at a corner grocery last year. They were on sale, $1 for a pack of two, so I bought two packs. They were DOA. I just figured that's why they were on sale, but the charts here show really atrocious performance.
posted by Xoebe at 11:03 AM on September 14, 2012


anthill: Can anyone recommend an equivalent review of rechargeable batteries?

Pre-Charged (Low Self-Discharge) Rechargeable Battery Comparison looks good. 13 different batteries are reviewed:

"The new Sanyo XX and Energizer Recharge are the clear winners for for short term high-current use, but for longer term applications, one of the lower rated capacity offerings is just as good, if not better."
posted by llin at 11:18 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shocking!
posted by punkfloyd at 12:23 PM on September 14, 2012


An electrifying read!
posted by notme at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2012


The nice thing about rechargeables is they they usually come with the capacity right on the package

Thank you for the discussion and Sanyo Eneloop recommendation. The problem with printed capacities is that they're often lies. That seems to be the only value that brand-names add, is the assurance of quality. But is there another way? A Costco of rechargeable batteries?
posted by anthill at 12:38 PM on September 14, 2012


There's a fellow on Amazon going by "NLee the Engineer" who posts exhaustive reviews of rechargeable batteries and chargers on Amazon. An excerpt:
I just finished testing one set of those AmazonBasics AA NiMH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries, using my old La Crosse BC-900 Charger/Analyzer. Here are my findings:

- Right out of the box, their average remaining charge is 1946mAh. The spread is very small, ranging from 1933 to 1959mAh. Note that the date code on those cells says 'MAR2011', so they probably left factory just two months ago. Still, those numbers are really impressive.

- After just one recharge/discharge cycle (done at 700/350mA), the average capacity improved to 2217mAh. That is about 11% higher than the rated capacity of '2000mAh'. Again the spread is small, varying from 2200 to 2250mAh. Those numbers remain unchanged in subsequent recharge/discharge cycles.
This review was then updated months later with long-term charge retention figures. He does this with it seems nearly every rechargeable battery and charger. Great resource.
posted by chazlarson at 12:58 PM on September 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's probably my fault for not reading closely enough, but I couldn't figure out what the n is on all these. Did they just do one battery at high discharge and one at low for each battery type, or are there replicates?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 4:28 PM on September 14, 2012


I purchased a universal remote control many years ago. It was powered by a AAA Maxell alkaline. After two years of constant use I replaced it on general principle. The Duracell lasted six months. Purchased the inexpensive Maxell brand ever since. Must be a small outfit since they are not included in the study.
posted by notreally at 4:43 PM on September 14, 2012


It would be nice if there was a similar comparison for US brands in US dollars.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:00 PM on September 14, 2012


>On electric car viability: go drive one. They are so. much. fun.<

+10000

Do it. It is fun.
posted by twidget at 5:25 PM on September 14, 2012


esoterica : That said, the price/performance of LiIon rechargeables have gotten so good (especially the low-self-discharge variety, e.g. Eneloops) that I think a good case could be made for disposable batteries to be banned.

Sorry, but as a former huge fan of rechargeable - The viability of which more-or-less directly made disposables affordable again through market pressure - They cost 50-100x the price (at a comparable mAh rating) of the "generic" alkalines, while only the best of the best will last more than a few dozen charges (and you need to wait for, and pay for, them to charge). You can perhaps make a case on purely environmental grounds, but no way can you make a solid lifetime-cost case.


I would, however, like to see the same test done for ultra-low discharge. Malor mentioned the sort of use I mean, thermometers and remote controls and wireless mice, and assorted things that tend to last months or even years on a single pair of AAs... Something like a 10mA test - Or better, as a more realistic test, a pulsed 50mA test with a 5-10mA average.

Of course, that would take hundreds of hours per test, so they'd either need to build a lot more test rigs, or spend 3ish months running the whole series of batteries from the other two drain levels (200mA) and 1000mA).

I really don't care how long my camera battery lasts (within reason - so kudos to TFA for letting me know "buy the cheapest alkalines possible"). I very much do care how long the batteries last in my home weather station, mounted to the top of a 40ft pole and which takes me a good hour to change out.
posted by pla at 7:13 PM on September 14, 2012


pla: well, for that use, I just had a set of five Kirklands last at least 18 months in an indoor/outdoor thermometer -- and both sets of batteries were still fine. I changed them because I figured I should, not because they'd stopped working.

Dunno if anyone else is better, but for such cheap batteries, I was impressed. But unless you have some use for the other 20 batteries in the pack, they're not very cost-effective.
posted by Malor at 8:05 PM on September 14, 2012


Bulk Eneloops + LaCrosse chargers = Happy Family with lots of toys. We charge AAs at 500 maH and AAAs at 200 maHs, they last for years and years, and stay fresh in the drawer (or remote or thermometer) for months or even a year.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 1:05 AM on September 15, 2012


It would be nice if there was a similar comparison for US brands in US dollars.

I assume that the Energizer Lithiums and Costco alkalines are the same as those sold in the U.S. Since those are respectively the best-performing and about the most cost-effective, I wasn't that bothered by the UK focus. Other U.S. brands would be what - store brands?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:40 AM on September 15, 2012


I wasn't that bothered by the UK focus. Other U.S. brands would be what - store brands?

I suspect taxes, import costs, and other factors might skew the price/performance ratio substantially. And I've never seen brands like Kodak, Ford and Polaroid batteries before. Those look like marketing deals rather than products manufactured by the companies, who knows the source of those batteries? I've seen Panasonic and Sony batteries, but only included with devices from those brands, never sold separately. I don't recall seeing them in Japan, but I might have overlooked them. You know, I recall once seeing a vending machine out in the middle of nowhere in Japan, I was walking past it and noticed it sold only batteries, some generic brand. I wondered who the hell would buy batteries from a vending machine sitting out in the sun in the middle of the summer, and maybe they were sitting in the machine since being frozen in the middle of winter.

Anyway, I just started buying AA rechargeable NiMH batteries, since my new Magic Mouse just eats batteries. I found Duracell AAs cheap at the local grocery store, but oddly, the 2000mAh batteries were more expensive than the 2540mAh. Now I'm wondering about the accuracy of these ratings, and whether the 2000mAh batteries might have better long-term performance in a low power device like a bluetooth mouse.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:30 PM on September 15, 2012


Eneloops are great, but Hobbyking has some store brand (Turnigy) low static discharge AA and AAAs that perform as well, for a fraction of the price. The only trouble is they are so good and so cheap they sell out within a few days of each shipment they receive.
posted by bystander at 4:07 AM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've seen Panasonic, Kodak, and Polaroid alkaline batteries for sale in the U.S. Also Panasonic NiMH ones. The Polaroid and Kodak ones probably were made by somebody else. Nor so sure about Panasonic. I would not be surprised if there are only a handful or less of companies that actually manufacture alkaline batteries.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:35 PM on September 16, 2012


I very much do care how long the batteries last in my home weather station, mounted to the top of a 40ft pole and which takes me a good hour to change out.

40ft of wire, a battery holder & a weatherproof box. Problem solved.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:40 PM on September 16, 2012


40ft of wire, a battery holder & a weatherproof box. Problem solved.

No, you've just traded one problem for another. 40 feet of wire has a lot more resistance than 0 feet of wire, it will put a higher load on the battery.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:30 PM on September 16, 2012


40 feet of wire has a lot more resistance than 0 feet of wire, it will put a higher load on the battery.

Actually, a higher resistance will result in a lower draw from the battery. In any case, unless you're using REALLY crappy wire, the voltage drop due to resistance will be negligible given that this is a very low-current device [otherwise the battery life would make the setup impractical].

For example, assume 1 ohm wire resistance [any wire worth using should be a lot less than that], and 10ma current draw - you're only going to drop 1/100th of a volt across the wire.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 10:43 PM on September 17, 2012


« Older Penciled in for 2025: the Medium Line   |   "Jumping the rope is not good... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post