Lithium Ion Battery VS Nickel Cadmium Battery: Which Battery is Better?

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Choosing the correct battery for your devices or applications is crucial for optimal performance and longevity. In this article, we will compare two popular rechargeable battery types: Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries. We’ll delve into their characteristics, advantages, and limitations and help you determine which battery is better suited for your specific needs.

Part 1. What is a lithium-ion battery?

lithium ion battery

Lithium-ion batteries comprise several vital components, including electrodes, electrolytes, and a separator. The positive electrode, or cathode, typically consists of lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (LiNiMnCoO2), or lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4). The negative electrode, or anode, is usually made of graphite.

During charging, lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode through the electrolyte solution, creating a potential difference. This process is reversed during discharge, as the lithium ions travel back to the cathode, generating electrical energy.

Part 2. Lithium-ion battery advantages and limitations 


  • High Energy Density: Lithium-ion batteries offer a high energy density, meaning they can store a substantial amount of energy in a compact size. This makes them ideal for portable devices where space is limited.
  • Lightweight: Li-ion batteries are relatively lightweight compared to other rechargeable battery types, making them suitable for mobile devices.
  • No Memory Effect: Unlike other batteries, lithium batteries do not suffer from the memory effect. This means they can be charged and discharged anytime without impacting their overall capacity.
  • Fast Charging: Lithium-ion batteries charge quickly, enabling you to minimize downtime and keep your devices powered up.
  • Low Self-Discharge: Li-ion batteries have a low rate, meaning they retain their charge for extended periods when not in use.


  • Limited Lifespan: Li-ion batteries have a limited lifespan, typically lasting between 2 to 3 years before their capacity starts to degrade. Over time, you may notice a decrease in their ability to hold a charge.
  • Safety Concerns: While rare, Li-ion batteries can experience thermal runaway, where the battery overheats, potentially leading to fires or explosions. Proper handling, storage, and charging practices mitigate these risks.
  • Higher Cost: Li-ion batteries are generally more expensive than other battery types. This is primarily due to the cost of lithium resources and the advanced technology involved in their production.

Part 3. What is a nickel cadmium battery? 

nickel cadmium battery

Nickel Cadmium batteries consist of a positive electrode (nickel oxide hydroxide), a negative electrode (cadmium), and an alkaline electrolyte (potassium hydroxide). These batteries employ a reversible electrochemical reaction between nickel and cadmium to store and release energy.

Part 4. Nickel-cadmium battery advantages and limitations 


  • Wide Operating Temperature Range: NiCd batteries can function in extreme temperatures, making them suitable for applications in harsh environments where other batteries might struggle.
  • High Discharge Rate: NiCd batteries can deliver a high discharge rate, making them suitable for devices that require a sudden burst of power, such as power tools or emergency equipment.
  • Long Cycle Life: Nickel Cadmium batteries have a long cycle life, meaning they can withstand many charge and discharge cycles before showing significant degradation in performance.
  • Low Internal Resistance: NiCd batteries have a low internal resistance, allowing them to deliver a consistent power output even under heavy loads.
  • Relatively Lower Cost: Nickel Cadmium batteries are generally less expensive than Li-ion batteries, making them more cost-effective for specific applications.


  • Memory Effect: Nickel Cadmium batteries can suffer from the memory effect. You can reduce their overall capacity if you don’t fully discharge them before recharging. However, modern NiCd batteries and other battery chemistries, such as lithium-ion, have been designed to minimize or eliminate the memory effect.
  • Toxic Materials: NiCd batteries contain harmful materials, such as cadmium, which raises environmental concerns during the production, use, and disposal of these batteries.
  • Lower Energy Density: Nickel Cadmium batteries have a lower energy density than lithium-ion batteries. This means that, for the same capacity, NiCd batteries would be larger and heavier than their Li-ion counterparts.
  • Self-Discharge: NiCd batteries have a higher self-discharge rate compared to Li-ion batteries. They tend to lose their charge more quickly when not in use, which can disadvantage applications requiring extended standby periods.

Part 5. The difference between lithium-ion and nickel cadmium batteries

Here’s a comparison table that focuses on different aspects of lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium batteries:


Lithium-ion Battery

Nickel Cadmium Battery

Energy Density





Relatively Heavy

Cycle Life



Charging Speed



Self-Discharge Rate



Environmental Impact



Performance in Extreme Temperatures



Suitability for Electric Vehicles



Suitability for Portable Devices




Moderate to High


Chemistry: Li-ion batteries use lithium ions as charge carriers, while NiCd batteries use nickel oxide hydroxide and metallic cadmium.

Energy Density: Li-ion batteries have a higher energy density than NiCd batteries. This means they can store more energy in a smaller and lighter package.

Memory Effect: NiCd batteries can experience the memory effect, which can reduce their overall capacity over time if not fully discharged before recharging. Li-ion batteries do not suffer from this effect.

Lifespan: Li-ion batteries generally have a shorter lifespan compared to NiCd batteries. NiCd batteries can withstand more charge and discharge cycles before significant degradation occurs.

Environmental Impact: NiCd batteries contain toxic materials, such as cadmium, which raises environmental concerns during production, use, and disposal. Li-ion batteries have a lower environmental impact in this regard.

Cost: NiCd batteries are generally less expensive than Li-ion batteries, making them more cost-effective for specific applications.

Part 6. FAQs 

  • Are nickel batteries better than lithium?

    It depends on your needs. Nickel batteries, like NiCad, offer reliability and cost-effectiveness. In contrast, lithium batteries, like Li-ion, provide higher energy density and faster charging. It’s about choosing the correct battery for your specific requirements.
  • Can I replace a NiCad battery with a lithium-ion battery?

    Yes, you can replace a NiCad battery with a lithium-ion battery. Still, you must ensure compatibility with your device, and it may require some modifications for proper functioning.
  • How long will NiCad batteries last?

    NiCad batteries can last several years or even decades if used and maintained correctly. Factors like usage, storage conditions, and battery type can affect their lifespan.
  • Are NiCad batteries illegal?

    No, NiCad batteries are not illegal. However, due to environmental concerns, some countries restrict using cadmium, a toxic metal in NiCad batteries. It’s important to follow local regulations for proper disposal and recycling.
  • Why was cadmium banned?

    Cadmium has been restricted or banned in some products and applications due to its toxic nature and potential harm to the environment and human health. Regulations aim to minimize exposure and encourage the use of alternative materials.


Electronic Engineering Writer

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