Batteries are crucial for powering a wide range of devices, from small consumer electronics to large industrial equipment. Two of the most common rechargeable battery chemistries are nickel cadmium (NiCd) and lithium ion (Li-ion). But which one is better for your needs?

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll examine the key differences between NiCd and Li-ion batteries to help you decide.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Lithium ion batteries are better than nickel cadmium for most applications today. Li-ion offers higher energy density, lower self-discharge, longer cycle life, and no memory effect.

However, NiCd can still be a good choice for high-power devices and extreme temperatures where Li-ion would fail.

In the sections below, we will compare the two battery types in detail across factors like cost, performance, lifespan, safety, and more. We’ll also discuss the best uses for each battery chemistry so you can make the right choice for your specific application.

Cost Comparison

NiCd Battery Cost

When it comes to the cost of nickel cadmium (NiCd) batteries, they tend to be more affordable compared to lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. The manufacturing process of NiCd batteries is less complex, resulting in lower production costs.

Additionally, the materials used in NiCd batteries, such as nickel and cadmium, are relatively inexpensive. This makes NiCd batteries a cost-effective option for certain applications where budget is a primary concern.

Li-ion Battery Cost

On the other hand, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are generally more expensive than NiCd batteries. The higher cost of Li-ion batteries can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the production process of Li-ion batteries involves more advanced technologies and materials, such as lithium cobalt oxide or lithium iron phosphate.

These materials are more expensive compared to the nickel and cadmium used in NiCd batteries. Additionally, the manufacturing process of Li-ion batteries requires more stringent quality control measures, which adds to the overall cost.

Cost Per Watt and Cycle

While NiCd batteries may have a lower initial cost, it is essential to consider the cost per watt-hour and cycle life when comparing them to Li-ion batteries. Li-ion batteries have a higher energy density, meaning they can store more energy per unit weight or volume.

This higher energy density translates to a longer runtime for devices powered by Li-ion batteries. As a result, Li-ion batteries can provide more power over their lifespan, making them cost-effective in the long run, despite their higher upfront cost.

Furthermore, Li-ion batteries tend to have a longer cycle life compared to NiCd batteries. A cycle is defined as one charge and one discharge of a battery. Li-ion batteries can typically endure hundreds or even thousands of cycles before their performance starts to degrade significantly.

In contrast, NiCd batteries have a limited number of cycles before their capacity diminishes. Therefore, when considering the overall cost per cycle, Li-ion batteries may offer better value for money.

It is important to note that battery prices can vary depending on factors such as capacity, brand, and market demand. It is advisable to compare prices from different manufacturers and suppliers to get the best deal.

For more detailed information on battery costs and comparisons, you can visit reputable websites such as Battery University and U.S. Department of Energy – Lithium-Ion Batteries.

Performance Comparison


When comparing Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) and Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries, one of the key factors to consider is their voltage. NiCd batteries typically have a nominal voltage of 1.2 volts per cell, whereas Li-ion batteries have a nominal voltage of 3.6 to 3.7 volts per cell.

This higher voltage of Li-ion batteries allows for more power and efficiency in electronic devices.


When it comes to discharge rate, Li-ion batteries have a significant advantage over NiCd batteries. Li-ion batteries can discharge at a much higher rate, making them ideal for high-drain devices such as smartphones and electric vehicles.

On the other hand, NiCd batteries have a lower discharge rate and are better suited for low-drain devices like remote controls and flashlights.

Energy Density

Energy density refers to the amount of energy a battery can store per unit volume or weight. Li-ion batteries have a higher energy density compared to NiCd batteries, which means they can store more energy in a smaller and lighter package.

This is why Li-ion batteries are widely used in portable electronic devices where space and weight are crucial factors.

Power Density

Power density is a measure of how quickly a battery can deliver its energy. Li-ion batteries have a higher power density than NiCd batteries, meaning they can provide a higher amount of power in a shorter period.

This makes Li-ion batteries suitable for devices that require quick bursts of power, such as digital cameras and power tools.

Charge Rate

When it comes to charging, Li-ion batteries have a faster charge rate compared to NiCd batteries. Li-ion batteries can be charged more quickly, allowing for shorter charging times and less downtime for devices.

NiCd batteries, on the other hand, have a slower charge rate and require longer charging times.


Self-discharge refers to the rate at which a battery loses its charge when not in use. Li-ion batteries have a lower self-discharge rate compared to NiCd batteries. This means that Li-ion batteries can retain their charge for a longer period when not in use, making them more convenient for users who may not use their devices frequently.

Lifespan Comparison

Cycle Life

When comparing the lifespan of Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) and Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries, one of the key factors to consider is their cycle life. Cycle life refers to the number of charge-discharge cycles a battery can undergo before its capacity significantly decreases.

NiCd batteries typically have a higher cycle life compared to Li-ion batteries. On average, NiCd batteries can endure around 500-1000 cycles, while Li-ion batteries can handle about 300-500 cycles. However, it’s important to note that the actual cycle life may vary depending on various factors such as usage patterns, charging habits, and operating conditions.

Calendar Life

Another crucial aspect to consider when comparing the lifespan of NiCd and Li-ion batteries is their calendar life. Calendar life refers to the total lifespan of a battery, regardless of its usage. Li-ion batteries generally have a longer calendar life compared to NiCd batteries.

While NiCd batteries can typically last for 5-7 years, Li-ion batteries can have a lifespan of 10-15 years or more. It’s worth mentioning that these estimates are based on average usage and storage conditions, and individual results may vary.

Effect of Temperature

The lifespan of both NiCd and Li-ion batteries can be influenced by temperature. Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can have a negative impact on battery performance and longevity. NiCd batteries tend to handle high temperatures better than Li-ion batteries.

They can withstand higher operating temperatures without significant degradation. On the other hand, Li-ion batteries are more sensitive to high temperatures and may experience a decrease in capacity and overall lifespan when exposed to prolonged heat.

It is generally recommended to store and operate Li-ion batteries within a moderate temperature range to optimize their lifespan.

Safety Comparison

Overcharge Tolerance

When it comes to overcharging, Lithium-ion batteries have a clear advantage over Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are designed with advanced protection circuits that prevent overcharging, reducing the risk of damage and potential hazards.

On the other hand, NiCd batteries are more prone to overcharging, which can lead to performance degradation and even battery failure. It is important to note that overcharging any battery can be dangerous, but the built-in safeguards in Lithium-ion batteries make them safer in this regard.

Internal Resistance

In terms of internal resistance, Lithium-ion batteries have a lower internal resistance compared to NiCd batteries. This allows Lithium-ion batteries to deliver power more efficiently, resulting in better overall performance.

The lower internal resistance also means that Lithium-ion batteries generate less heat during operation, reducing the risk of overheating and potential thermal runaway situations.

Thermal Runaway

Thermal runaway is a condition where a battery experiences a self-accelerating increase in temperature, potentially leading to a fire or explosion. While both Nickel Cadmium and Lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to thermal runaway, the risk is generally higher with NiCd batteries.

This is due to their higher internal resistance and the potential for overcharging, which can generate excessive heat. However, it is important to note that both types of batteries have safety mechanisms in place to mitigate the risk of thermal runaway.

Other Factors

Memory Effect

One of the factors to consider when comparing Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) and Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries is the issue of memory effect. Memory effect is a phenomenon observed in NiCd batteries where they lose their maximum energy capacity if they are not fully discharged before recharging.

This means that if you consistently recharge a NiCd battery when it is only partially discharged, it will start to remember the lower capacity and eventually lose its ability to hold a full charge.

On the other hand, Li-ion batteries do not suffer from memory effect. They can be recharged at any time, regardless of the remaining charge, without affecting their maximum capacity. This makes Li-ion batteries more convenient and reliable for everyday use, as you don’t have to worry about fully discharging them before recharging.

Environmental Impact

When it comes to the environmental impact, Li-ion batteries are considered to be more environmentally friendly compared to NiCd batteries. NiCd batteries contain toxic heavy metals like cadmium, which can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of properly.

In fact, cadmium is classified as a carcinogen and can cause serious health issues when exposed to humans or animals.

On the other hand, Li-ion batteries do not contain any toxic heavy metals and are generally considered to be safer for the environment. However, it is important to note that Li-ion batteries still need to be recycled properly to prevent any potential harm to the environment.

Many organizations and manufacturers have established recycling programs to ensure the proper disposal of these batteries and minimize their environmental impact.

Size and Weight

When it comes to size and weight, Li-ion batteries are generally lighter and more compact compared to NiCd batteries. This is due to the difference in the chemical composition and construction of the two types of batteries.

Li-ion batteries have a higher energy density, which means they can store more energy in a smaller and lighter package. This makes them ideal for portable devices, such as smartphones and laptops, where weight and size are important considerations.

On the other hand, NiCd batteries are bulkier and heavier due to their lower energy density. This makes them more suitable for applications where size and weight are not critical factors, such as power tools and emergency backup systems.

Best Applications

NiCd Advantages

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) batteries have been widely used in various applications for many years. They have proven to be reliable and durable, making them suitable for demanding industries such as aviation, military, and medical equipment.

NiCd batteries are known for their ability to withstand extreme temperatures, making them ideal for use in harsh environments. They also have a high tolerance for overcharging and deep discharging, which makes them suitable for applications where the battery may be subject to frequent and unpredictable use.

NiCd batteries are commonly used in portable power tools, emergency lighting systems, and two-way radios. Their ability to deliver a high current makes them well-suited for devices that require a burst of power.

Additionally, NiCd batteries have a long cycle life, meaning they can be recharged and discharged many times before needing to be replaced. This makes them cost-effective for applications where the battery is expected to have a long lifespan.

Li-ion Advantages

Lithium Ion (Li-ion) batteries have gained popularity in recent years due to their high energy density and lightweight design. They are commonly used in consumer electronics such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets, where the focus is on compactness and portability.

Li-ion batteries offer a higher specific energy, meaning they can store more energy per unit of weight compared to NiCd batteries.

Li-ion batteries also have a lower self-discharge rate, which means they can hold their charge for a longer period of time when not in use. This makes them suitable for applications where the battery is not used frequently or where a long shelf life is required.

Additionally, Li-ion batteries do not suffer from the “memory effect” that can impact the performance of NiCd batteries. This allows Li-ion batteries to be recharged at any time without reducing their overall capacity.

One of the major advantages of Li-ion batteries is their environmental friendliness. Unlike NiCd batteries, Li-ion batteries do not contain toxic metals such as cadmium, making them safer to use and dispose of.

Li-ion batteries also have a higher energy efficiency, meaning they can deliver more power for a longer period of time compared to NiCd batteries.


In summary, lithium ion batteries are superior to nickel cadmium batteries for most applications today due to their higher energy density, lower self-discharge, longer cycle life, lighter weight and lack of memory effect.

However, NiCd batteries can still be a good choice for high-power devices, extreme temperatures, or cost-sensitive applications. When selecting a battery, carefully consider the performance, lifespan, safety, and environmental tradeoffs.

We hope this detailed comparison of NiCd and Li-ion batteries helps you determine the best option for your specific use case. Let us know if you have any other battery chemistry questions!

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