Most of the devices in our modern world today depend on batteries. Whether you’re charging your tools, laptops or gaming systems, there’s a good chance that somewhere, the entire system is relying on battery power to keep going.
This is why battery technology has been front and center for decades, with new and improved models hitting the market all the time. Two of the most popular types of batteries today are Nickel-Cadmium batteries (NiCad) and Nickel-metal hydride (NiMH). NiCAD batteries have actually been around for over a century due to their efficiency and reliability, while NiMH batteries are newer, being patented in the 1980s. Noth come with pros and cons, but which one is better?
To answer this question, let’s compare the two to see how they differ.
Significant Differences Between the Two
There are many features we could compare, but we’re going to go with four important ones: run time, life cycle, volts and other concerns.
“Run time” is a self-explanatory concept, and refers to how long a battery lasts and how much charge it can ultimately deliver. While both of these batteries perform well in this area, the Nickel-Cadmium battery has the advantage here.
This is for two reasons. First, it just runs longer and can hold more of a charge. That alone gives it the advantage and makes it the clear winner in this area. However, there is a second reason as well: what happens in storage.
See, in storage, batteries discharge some of their stored power. Some do this faster than others, and this can also affect your overall run time if you are using a battery that hasn’t been used in a while. In this case, Nickel-metal hydride batteries self-discharge at a much faster rate, which means that you’re already looking at a shorter run time before you even put it in your device.
“Life Cycle” is all about recharges. How long can your battery get charged, over and over again, before it starts to suffer and degrade?
There are actually two things to consider here, and the truth is that these two batteries split this category because of this. The first is number of charges in general, and the Nickel-Cadmium batteries win here. Simply put, they can take a high number of charges before they ever begin to experience any sort of downgrading in their performance at all. The Nickel-metal hydride batteries can go for a while too, but will start to degrade sooner.
The other aspect of life cycle, however, involves memory. “Memory” is what happens when a battery is not fully discharged before you charge it again. If that happens enough, batteries with memory will basically “remember” that you don’t need all of their capacity, and will start to hold less of a charge. In this case, the NiMH battery is the clear winner, as they are much less prone to memory issues.
“Volts” deals with the amount of power being produced at any one time. Of course, you can get batteries for different voltage ratings, so there’s some flexibility here. But what happens to that voltage as throughout the life of the battery?
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This is another area where the NiCad battery wins. As the battery reaches the end of its charge, the NiCad battery remains consistent and doesn’t lost any of its voltage output at all. The NiMH battery, however, will start to lose voltage output as it nears the end of the charge.
While so far it looks like the NiCad battery is leading, there are other factors to consider, and we’re going to mention three of them:
First, the NiMH battery is significantly lighter than the NiCad battery. This might not seem like a big deal, until you’re using it in something you have to carry around or lift. Then, those extra pounds really matter! Second, the NiMH battery overall is much more environmentally friendly, whereas the NiCad battery is made, in part, with strip mining and other harmful practices.
The third point, however, goes back to NiCad batteries: cold temperatures. NiCad batteries work better in colder temperatures, and are rated to start in much colder temps than their NiMH counterparts.
NiMH vs. NiCad: Picking What’s Right for You?
As you can see, there’s no easy choice here. Each type of battery comes with its advantages and disadvantages. For a measure of performance alone, the NiCad battery seems to come out on top. However, when you take other factors into account, the NiMH battery has some strong advantages of its own.
With all that in mind, though, for us, the winner is clear: the Nickel-Cadmium batteries come out on top. Yes, things like weight are important, but you buy a battery for power and dependability, and the NiCad still wins in those areas, where it counts the most.