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NiCad vs Lithium Ion Batteries Power Tools Comparison and Usage

NiCad vs Lithium Ion Batteries Power Tools Comparison and Usage

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NiCad vs lithium ion: Which battery better for cordless tools?

For many years the NiCad batteries have been dominating the cordless market. There was almost no cordless device that contained any batteries other than the NiCad ones. That fact is coming to a change. Currently, Lithium ion batteries are replacing most of the NiCad batteries in most cordless devices. This is due to the numerous advantages the Lithium ion batteries have over the NiCad batteries. Lithium ion batteries are smaller in size, require far less maintenance than the NiCad ones, and most importantly they are environmentally safer than the NiCad batteries. It is true that both batteries are similar in the way they deliver electric energy; however, they are completely different in their chemical composition, their impact on the environment, their applications, and also their costs.

To answer the above question, it simply depends on the task you want the battery for and your budget. Lithium ion batteries are smaller and lighter than the NiCad batteries. That being said, Lithium ion batteries are two to three times more expensive than the NiCad batteries. However, Lithium ion batteries have virtually no self discharge, which allows them to be stored for months and months without losing their capacity.

When comparing the amount of power both batteries provide, they are the same. An 18V Lithium ion battery provides the same power an 18V NiCad battery provides. However, how long does each battery provide that power is another story. Lithium ion battery comes first in that field as it allows the power tool to operate for longer times than the NiCad battery does. NiCad batteries have an effect that is called "memory effect". It is an effect where the battery remembers the point in their charge cycle where recharging began, during operation, the voltage will drop at that point as if the battery had been discharged. Lithium ion batteries, on the other hand, do not have that effect. Moreover, Lithium ion batteries can tolerate a wider range of temperatures than NiCad batteries.

Can you use a lithium ion battery in a NiCad drill?

A power tool like a drill is not designed to know how to distinguish between the power from a NiCad battery and the power coming from a Lithium ion battery. Cordless power tools are designed in a way that they will not accept any incompatible battery packs. That is why it is safe to use any battery pack, whether it is a Lithium ion battery or a NiCad battery pack. However, the battery must fit the tool.

It is also important to mention that to be able to do that you must use new generation Lithium ion batteries. The earliest generations of Lithium ion batteries were not backward compatible with any tool that uses NiCad batteries. However, that changed over time with the advancement of technology in the field. Currently, major manufacturers of Lithium ion batteries make 18V Lithium ion batteries that are both forward and backward compatible. Those can be used in drills that normally operate on NiCad batteries.

In addition, most chargers on the market now are also backward compatible with the older batteries of both Lithium ion and NiCad batteries. However, both batteries and chargers must have the same mount to function properly. It is important to know that the charger that came with the NiCad battery will NOT operate with the Lithium ion battery.

Which power tools tend to use lithium ion batteries?

In the field of power tools, the first huge development that occurred was in the early 1970s with the commercialization of NiCad batteries. Before that, all batteries were lead acid-based batteries. They were heavy and cannot be used in portable tools. With the introduction of the NiCad batteries, the portability problem was solved. There are a lot of cordless power tools nowadays that use Lithium ion batteries. As we mentioned before, Lithium ion batteries are smaller and lighter than the NiCad batteries. They have virtually no self discharge, which allows them to be stored for months and months without losing their capacity.

Lithium ion batteries have become the go-to batteries for cordless power tools. The reasons behind that are:

  • Lithium ion battery provides high energy density.

  • Lithium ion battery can be recharged many times over.

  • Lithium ion battery has a very high cycle life when compared to the NiCad battery.

  • Lithium ion battery has no memory effect.

  • Lithium ion battery has high capacity when compared to the NiCad battery.

Lithium ion batteries that are used in Power tools have some commonly shared characteristics.

  • They have a cycle life of approximately 1900 cycles.

  • At 21 C they have a discharge rate of 8%, which is much more better than that of NiCad batteries.

  • They have an average of 3 Ah and up.

  • They are very light weight, portable and small.

  • Their smaller size allows for customization and smaller power tools.

  • There are some drawbacks for the Lithium ion batteries as well, some of these drawbacks are

    • The high temperature the battery experience during usage can cause the battery to explode.

    • The battery is very sensitive to impact and vibrations.

    • Lithium ion batteries are very expensive compared to NiCad batteries.

    Some of the tools that use the Lithium ion batteries instead of the NiCad batteries are:

    • The Bosch GSR brushless power drill

    • The Makita slide angle drill

    • The Bosch angle power drill.

    • The Hitachi angle power drill.

    • The Bosch Professional Digital power drill.

    • The Bosch Brushless cutter power tool.

    • The Bosch Multi cutter power tool.

    • The Makita slide multi cutter power tool.

    • The Makita threaded rod cutter power tool.

    It is also worth noting that these tools are pretty expensive when compared to conventional power tools devices. That is due to the fact that they used Lithium ion batteries. Lithium ion batteries are expensive, which in result reflects on the price of the power tool device.

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