Browse Definitions:

rechargeable battery

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A rechargeable battery is an energy storage device that can be charged again after being discharged by applying DC current to its terminals.

Rechargeable batteries allow for multiple usages from a cell, reducing waste and generally providing a better long-term investment in terms of dollars spent for usable device time. This is true even factoring in the higher purchase price of rechargeables and the requirement for a charger.
A rechargeable battery is generally a more sensible and sustainable replacement to one-time use batteries, which generate current through a chemical reaction in which a reactive anode is consumed. The anode in a rechargeable battery gets consumed as well but at a slower rate, allowing for many charges and discharges.

In use, rechargeable batteries are the same as conventional ones. However, after discharge the batteries are placed in a charger or, in the case of built-in batteries, an AC/DC adapter is connected.

While rechargeable batteries offer better long term cost and reduce waste, they do have a few cons. Many types of rechargeable cells created for consumer devices, including AA and AAA, C and D batteries, produce a lower voltage of 1.2v in contrast to the 1.5v of alkaline batteries. Though this lower voltage doesn't prevent correct operation in properly-designed electronics, it can mean a single charge does not last as long or offer the same power in a session. This is not the case, however, with lithium polymer and lithium ion batteries.

Some types of batteries such as nickel cadmium and nickel-metal hydride can develop a battery memory effect when only partially discharged, reducing performance of subsequent charges and thus battery life in a given device.

Rechargeable batteries are used in many applications such as cars, all manner of consumer electronics and even off-grid and supplemental facility power storage.

See also: Tesla Powerpack and Powerwall.

This was last updated in May 2015

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