Although rechargeable batteries‘ 1.2 volts are lower than the 1.5 volts of alkalines, you need not worry about it affecting your gadgets’ performance.
In the world of rechargeable batteries, there is a healthy helping of skepticism and ignorance when it comes to all of the numbers and ratings associated with NiMH rechargeable battery technology. Voltage, the dreaded “voltage depression,” and mAh (milliampere-hour) ratings are all new technological considerations for consumers who up until very recently had nothing more to worry about when it came to batteries other than having to replace them when they went dead.
But as people become more and more educated on rechargeable batteries, this new knowledge often leads to new questions as well. A recent string of skepticism has arisen regarding the output voltage of rechargeable batteries, and how it compares with disposable alkaline batteries: while alkaline batteries output 1.5 volts of power, NiMH rechargeable batteries only manage 1.2 volts of power output. So, the question is, will that lack of .3v in rechargeable batteries negatively impact the performance of electronics?
The short answer is no. Here are the facts and realities surrounding what we might call “Voltagegate.”
First off, when we say that alkaline batteries manage a 1.5v power output, we’re actually being quite generous: while the average alkaline battery starts out at 1.5 volts, the lifecycle of an alkaline is constantly sliding down from 1.5 to 1.0 volts before dying out. This means that the average voltage output of an alkaline battery is, in fact, about 1.2 volts. In the end, an alkaline battery only benefits from 1.5 V voltage at the beginning of its discharge. Then, it drops constantly to well below 1.2 V to around 0.6 V. Most equipment will work happily on anything between 0.9 V and 1.5 V. Unlike alkaline batteries where the voltage drops quickly, rechargeable batteries offer a more constant voltage around 1.25 V throughout the entire period of use.
In addition, because of the discharge of NiMH rechargeable batteries, they don’t see their voltage slide down during their lifecycle in the way that alkalines do. Instead, rechargeable batteries maintain a steady voltage output of 1.2 volts.
In this way, despite the lower voltage, consumers actually get a steadier, more reliable power output from NiMH rechargeable batteries. That is why the latest rechargeable batteries will actually outperform alkaline batteries in equipment calling for a constant and high level of energy input, such as digital cameras, flashes, camcorders, computers, portable phones, CD players, toys, gadgets – well just about anything.
Some electronic devices, however, may benefit slightly from the 1.5 volt starting power of a fresh alkaline battery than the steady 1.2 volts of a rechargeable battery. A portable radio or flashlight, for example, will perform better with the initial jolt of an alkaline’s 1.5 volts. That being said, because of the steady voltage drain on a disposable battery, the performance of a radio or flashlight is going to slowly decline. The radio or flashlight using a 1.2 volt rechargeable battery may not receive or light up with the same initial intensity, but will offer consistent performance over a long period of time.
There’s another thing to consider when it comes to batteries and voltage as well. . .
The voltage of an alkaline battery drops at a very predictable rate: 1.5 volts – fully charged, 1.25 volts – 50% charged, 1.0 volts – at the end of its lifecycle. Because of this, many electronics devices, such as the Nintendo Wii, can give users accurate feedback about how much battery power is left in an alkaline battery. However, for an NiMH rechargeable battery, it remains virtually at 1.2 volts until it is nearly completely discharged. Because of this, it is impossible to track the lifecycle of a rechargeable battery.
Of course, if you’re a user of rechargeable batteries, this really won’t be much of a problem for you, since most likely you’ll have a fresh set of batteries ready to go when your Wiimote or other gadget runs out of power. But it’s always good to know what the voltage of your batteries really means.
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