A Comparison Between Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium-ion (Li-ion) Batteries

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Modern society is powered by various electronic devices such

as cell phones, laptops, and cameras. All of these things use batteries. There

are many battery types out there, and each type has its strengths and

weaknesses. For this article, we will discuss and compare NiMH and Li-ion


These types of batteries are usually used for high-drain

devices like laptops, cellphones, iPods, and digital cameras. However, they

have some distinguishing features which make one type more efficient than the

other in some regards.

NiMH Pros


High Energy Density: These have an average of 2200mAh (milliampere

hours—the amount of current in

milliamperes that it can give multiplied by the time in hours). This is greater

than the 1500mAh seen in Li-ion batteries. These are the standard numbers in

1.2v NiMHs and 3.7v Li-ions.


Compatible: If you have ten gadgets using an NiMH

battery, you can use a single pack to power them all—not simultaneously, of course. NiMH uses

standard sizes so they are compatible with all devices using sizes such as AAA

or AA. Compared to Li-ions, the sizes depend on the manufacturer or model of

the device. I did see some AA size Li-ions around the market, so it may be

worth checking them out.


Safe: They have less active materials compared

to Li-ion batteries. NiMH can pop if they are overcharged too much or short

circuit, but this is nothing compared to a Li-ion, which can potentially blow



Fully Dischargeable: By this, I mean these batteries can be

brought down to 0 charge, if you can get them to reach that. They will still

charge; just don’t let them suffer from reverse polarity, or else they will be


NiMH Cons


High Self-Discharge Rate: NiMH lose a large percentage of their

charge every month. The number is around 5% in the first week after the charge

and about 50% in the first month. There are low self-discharge (LSD) rate types

available. They are more reliable than the standard NiMH, but they have lower

capacities, usually around 2000mAh.


Unreliable for Low-Load Devices: You should not use NiMH batteries for

devices such as clocks. They will lose charge faster through self-discharge

rather than the load. Use alkaline, Li-ion, or lithium batteries instead.


Low Voltage Output: Each AA cell can only give 1.2v, compared

to Li-ion cells that can give 3.7v.


Long Charging Time: The standard charge time of a NiMH is 10–12 hours. Fast charging these cells can

result in damage. Li-ion cells can be charged at around 1–3 hours, depending on capacity.


Sensitive to Extreme Temperatures: At extreme temperatures, NiMH voltage

output will drop. Li-ion batteries can tolerate these temperatures to some


Li-ion Pros


Reliable: These have a significantly lower

self-discharge rate than a NiMH battery. As a result, they can be used for low-current

devices like clocks or watches.


Small: They are smaller and lighter compared to

NiMH batteries.


Higher Voltage Output: A single cell can deliver 3.7v while even

two NiMH cells can only give 2.4v.


Faster Recharge: Li-ions can be charged in about 1–3 hours, depending on capacity. This is

much faster than the 10–12 hours needed for NiMH



Temperature Tolerant: These can better withstand low

temperatures and warmer environments compared to NiMH cells.


Higher Energy Density: This means that the battery carries more

charge per gram than a NiMH battery.

Li-ion Cons


Lower Capacity: These have an average of 1500mAh compared to

the 2200 mAH average of NiMH cells.


Incompatible: Different manufacturers make different sizes

and shapes for Li-ion batteries, making them usable only to a specific set of

devices. NiMHs have standard sizes.


Less Safe: Ions are a very active material. They can

react easily and generate a lot of heat. That’s why there are circuits in those cells. They are used to check for

voltage and temperature. In other words, the circuits prevent the cells from

blowing up.


Not Fully Dischargeable: If a Li-ion battery gets fully discharged, it

will be damaged. Yes, you can shock charge it, but its efficiency will

decrease. Always keep this kind of battery charged above 50%.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes

only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in

business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Nikola Tesla on August 24, 2020:

I go defenitely with nimh!

Eibdelov on February 27, 2020:

Latest nimh batteries are capable of high speed charging as

am using in latest fast charging trimmers of philips

Renta Dick

Fukyosnatch on January 23, 2020:

This article is so poorly written I already don’t trust your

factual claims on the topic at all, let alone this specific issue. I’m not

saying you’re wrong, but this entire piece was so poorly written, i might as

well not have even read what you had to say about it.

Mostofa Kamal

Ahmed on March 25, 2019:

NiMH is better than Li-ion

Matthew on March 07, 2019:

So much wrong with this article that I don’t know where to


Well, to begin with – energy density is current x time x

voltage. You are missing the voltage part. Li-ion batteries actually have much

higher energy density.

If you said “higher charge density” you would be

right, but no one actually cares about that. It’s energy density that’s


Ecospider5 on December 16, 2018:

Low self discharge NIMH are way better than you state. They

hold over 80% charge for 3+ years.

Raffles on November 23, 2018:

@Enricoludo to power your 12V 2.6A fan for up to 8 hours, you

need a at least a 21Ah 12V battery, however that would run it completely flat,

so you probably want to get something a bit bigger than a 21Ah battery. Really

you are looking at a lead acid leisure battery for this, rather than either

NiMh or LI-ion. If you do want to use NiMh batteries you will need to put 10 in

series to get to 12V. A standard NiMh AA battery is typically around 2 Ah

capacity, so you will need around 12 in parallel, to get 24 Ah capacity. 12 x

10 = 120 NiMh AA batteries to power your 12V 2.6A fan for 8 hours. That will

cost a lot more than a standard 12V leisure battery, and when they are flat,

you will have 120 NiMh AA batteries to recharge before you can use the fan

again. Alternatively looking at Li-ion batteries, put 3 in series to get 11.1V

which is close enough to 12V to power a fan. A standard Li-ion 18650 battery is

typically 2.5Ah capacity so you will need 10 in parallel to get 25 Ah. 10 x 3 =

30 Li-ion 18650 batteries. Not as bad for recharging as the AA batteries, but

still a big job. I have a third suggestion. Get a solar panel. I assume you

only want the fan running when it is hot and sunny, which is perfect for

gaining solar power. The batteries then only need to have enough capacity for

when the light fades and the panel isn’t giving you enough power to run the fan

by itself. Your fan draws 31 W of power. You need a solar panel that is rated

at least double that power as solar panels rarely produce the power they’re

rated at (only when the sun light is hitting them at exactly 90°). So I would recommend you get say a 75W solar panel and a small

12V leisure battery (say 7Ah). I’ve got a set up like this in my home, although

I use it for phone charging rather than powering a fan. I hope this helps.

Tom Jones on March 01, 2018:

Nonsense about ions in lithium batteries and circuits

preventing blowing up. Utter rubbish. The circuits protect the batteries from

discharging too low and preventing reverse charge. All batteries have a

potential to blow up if they are fully charged and a short occurs, even ones

with the protection circuits.

Really this article should be completely removed. It is

riddled with all sorts of misinformation.

Darren Perkins on April 27, 2017:

Doesn’t look like the article was updated at all…now I

don’t know what to believe. Just delete the article for the sake of not

confusing people who want to know the facts. Article is completely useless.

Enricoludo on April 18, 2017:

Hi, I want to power a 12v 2.6A fan when camping, I would like

to keep running it for 6-8 hrs. Minimum, what options do you suggest is best

for this purpose. Thank you for your expertise!

smolny on March 23, 2016:

Others claim that Ni-MH are more tolerant to charge/discharge

at lower/higher temperatures than Li-Ion (and esp. Li-Poly). Would you be so

kind and double-check your sources about it?

John R Wilsdon from Superior, Arizona USA on February 06, 2016:

As a person frustrated in the past with how to make a

decision about batteries, this hub was very helpful and well designed. I will

refer to it in the future before a purchase. Thank you.

leakeem (author) from Earth on May 04, 2015:

Sirs, article has been updated.

Radmila on December 12, 2014:

Well put, sir, well put. I’ll cerltinay make note of that.

Trevor on July 10, 2014:

10 months have gone by since this very significant comment

that I almost didn’t read. Can you update this article for the sake of correct


leakeem (author) from Earth on September 12, 2013:

Thanks for the update/info! Will update that soon.

Michael Cline on September 12, 2013:

Be advised the energy density is actually much higher for

Li-ion versus NiMH. Energy density is measured in Watt Hours/weight, not

mAh/weight. Also, NiMH can be recharged much faster than Li-ion currently. You

can list an additional Con for NiMH that it requires a much more complex charging

algorithm. You can remove the self-discharge Con form NiMH since the new type

cells do not have this problem anymore.


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