You Can Recharge Alkaline Batteries But Should You?
If you grew up in the 1960s or 70s, you may remember being able to buy a charger for disposable alkaline batteries. No, your memory is not failing you. People really did recharge their disposable batteries way back when. You can still do it today. But should you?
We advise against it. And no, it’s not just because we sell Smart USB rechargeable batteries. We advise against it for two reasons:
- alkaline batteries are not designed to be recharged, and
- recharging them can be dangerous.
If you are old enough to remember the alkaline battery chargers of 50 years ago, you might remember how hot the batteries got during recharging. You might even remember instances of battery leakage. Both consequences explain why it is just not Smart to recharge alkalines.
Meant to Be Disposable
Alkaline batteries are marketed as single-use or disposable batteries. On the other hand, lithium-ion cells are deisgned to be and are marketed as rechargeable batteries. The primary differences in this regard are chemistry and design. Simply put, alkaline batteries are designed to be single-use cells. Manufacturers intend for you to buy them, completely discharge them, and throw them away.
While one could attempt to recharge alkaline batteries, a full recharge isn’t possible and there are inherent risks. Alkaline batteries are just not built that way.
The nail in the coffin is the fact that a disposable alkaline battery can only be recharged 7 to 10 times, if that much. The amount of time and expense that goes into recharging alkalines just isn’t justified by so few charge cycles. You are better off buying Smart lithium batteries that can be charged a thousand times or more.
Charging Cycles On and Off
The biggest risk with recharging alkaline batteries is leakage. As you probably know, alkaline batteries leak even under normal circumstances. Internal off gassing, made worse by heat, creates pressure that can breach battery seals. Therefore, the risk of leakage is an even bigger risk when recharging.
In order to recharge alkaline batteries safely, you have to constantly cycle a charger on and off. You run the charger for about 30 minutes, then turn it off long enough for the batteries to completely cool. With every on cycle, the batteries‘ voltage spikes considerably without a commensurate increase in recharging. Thus, it can take 10 to 12 hours of constantly cycling a charger on and off to get the job done.
For starters, that’s too much time and work. But that isn’t the only problem. Recharging alkaline batteries is unsafe. Too much heat can build up if cycling isn’t maintained. This could lead to an alkaline battery exploding – a bad scenario under any circumstances.
Charging Lithium-Ion Batteries
If you are into battery recharging, you’re far better off with lithium-ion batteries. As previously explained, these are designed to be recharged. They are built with that in mind. They are safer to recharge; they are easier to recharge; they are less likely to leak or explode.
Best of all is the fact that USB rechargeable batteries based on lithium-ion technology can be fully recharged within one to three hours. That’s lightning fast compared to NiCad, NiMH, and alkaline batteries. You also don’t have to sit there and cycle your charger on and off. Everything is automatic.
Here at Pale Blue Earth, we have come up with a Smart USB design that combines charger with battery in a single unit. You can plug our batteries into any standard USB charging port for safe and fast charging. It is a far better deal than attempting to recharge disposable alkaline batteries.
EBL NiZn Rechargeable AA Batteries with Charger review – a different kind of battery
REVIEW – You’re familiar with standard alkaline AA batteries from companies like Duracell, and you are probably familiar with rechargeable NiMH AA batteries, like these from Energizer. They are all the same size (diameter 14.5 mm, length 50.5 mm) and have a standard range for voltage (1.2 to 1.5v), though their capacity can vary widely (typically from 1000 to 2800 mAh). What you may not know is that there are a host of other types of AA batteries that use different materials internally, each having slightly different properties and uses. Today I’m going to be reviewing NiZN AA batteries from EBL.
What is it?
This is a set of 8 rechargeable Nickel-Zinc (NiZN) AA batteries with a charger. They have a 3000 mAh capacity, use 1.6v, and can be recharged 1000 times. EBL has been delivering batteries and chargers for 24 years, and their mission is “to deliver the highest quality and most reliable batteries possible.” They are headquartered in China.
What’s in the box?
The specs of the batteries are:
The specs of the charger are:
Design and features
At a glance, these appear to be normal AA batteries with an attractive black and gold design. The size, however, is not the same size as standard AA batteries; the height is identical, but the diameter is slightly wider. Some gadgets have very tight spacing for their batteries, so these NiZN batteries could get stuck if I’m not careful.
The charger is made of plastic and has a matte black color. It’s a very simple, open-top design that is typical of chargers. The charger can recharge all eight batteries at once, and its size is not much bigger than the batteries themselves. It can also charge AAA NiZN batteries, though none are included in this package.
One word of caution: This charger is only designed for NiZN batteries; don’t use this with other types of batteries, and don’t put NiZN batteries in other types of chargers. I wish the batteries and the charger had a bright warning icon or label to this effect, as I think it will be all too easy for me to forget at some point and make this mistake.
Installation and setup
The batteries and charger arrived in a small, cardboard box.
The batteries were in a pair of plastic cases and the charger in bubble wrap; EBL did a good job protecting everything while in transit.
Using this charger could not be any simpler. I opened the plastic cases, removed the batteries, and popped them into position, taking care to put the positive terminal on top. The charger has ports for both USB-C and micro USB. Unfortunately, EBL took a short cut here and only included a micro USB cable, which is quite out of date at this point. I wish that they would drop the micro USB port and include a USB-C to USB-C cable instead.
I plugged the USB-A side into my Soundcore Wakey and the micro USB into the top of the charger. While charging, small LEDs above each battery turned red; when finished, they turned green.
Because these are NiZN batteries, there are a few differences from the alkaline or NiMH batteries that I typically buy. One, it has a nominal voltage of 1.6v, which is higher than normal AAs. When freshly charged, their terminal voltage can be slightly higher, around 1.85v, which can be hazardous to some gadgets. I need to be careful not to use them in any gadget whose circuitry could be sensitive to this higher voltage. Two, these batteries are ideal for high-drain devices, anything that uses a lot of power in a short period of time, like a portable video game player, a radio-controlled toy, or an external camera flash. Three, historically NiZN batteries have not held their charge very well once they’ve been cycled more than 50 times. Time will tell whether this is true of these batteries.
I tested the batteries in two devices. The first device was a pair of Craftsman LED lanterns. They’re designed for camping, but we tend to use them in the backyard while grilling on our Breeo. We often grill after the sun has set, so these lanterns are perfect when we need to check how well done our meat is or to see while eating. Each lantern takes six AA batteries, and on the highest setting can put out 500 lumens, more than bright enough to light up the back porch. When I replaced the alkaline batteries in one lantern with EBL’s NiZN batteries, I could see the difference. At each of the four settings, the lantern with the NiZN batteries was noticeably brighter than the one with alkaline batteries from Duracell. In the photo above, the lantern on the right has the NiZN batteries.
The second device was a Speedlite 430EX II, an external flash for my Canon DSLR camera that uses a set of four AA batteries. When repeatedly shooting flash photography, the batteries in my flash can drain in a hurry. The NiZN batteries had no problem powering the flash, even when firing repeatedly. I can’t tell that the pictures were brighter when compared to alkaline batteries from Duracell, but they worked without any problems. I would be happy to bring a couple sets of four to a photoshoot.
What I’d change
NiZN batteries aren’t for everyone, but if you have a high-drain device, they can provide the power you need. I found that EBL’s batteries did a great job powering my lantern and my Speedlite, and despite their slightly larger diameter, I didn’t have any problems removing them from these gadgets. The charger’s very simple design worked exactly as expected. If you need a mess of NiZN AA’s, then I recommend looking at this gadget from EBL.
Price: 30.29 Where to buy: EBL and Amazon Source: The sample for this review was provided by EBL.
EBL Rechargeable AA Batteries 2800mAh 8 Pack Review
Here at Charger Harbor, I’ve reviewed a ton of power banks, and as you probably know, portable chargers are some of the best chargers to own. However, there is something that can be more reliable and useful than a portable charger: rechargeable batteries that you put into appliances. Most consumers are too focused on buying single-use AA or AAA batteries, which is a waste of money and bad for the environment.
In this review, I’m looking at these EBL rechargeable AA batteries with 2800mAh capacity. Specifically, I’m reviewing the 8 Pack AA batteries with the charger. I’ve been using these batteries for a few weeks now, and I have to say that it makes a lot more sense to get these rather than single-use ones. Of course, certain batteries perform differently for different appliances, but with them being rechargeable, it’s pretty hard to beat.
The battery capacity of each of these EBL batteries is 2800mAh, and that is probably the highest that you’re going to find with most other AA batteries that are rechargeable as well. Even Duracell rechargeable batteries have a 2500mAh capacity, so these EBL batteries are doing well.
How to Use these Batteries?
Well, since these are AA batteries, you can use them with nearly any device that requires AA batties to be powered. Toys, remotes, videogame controllers, clocks, and many other devices work great with these batteries. I used these batteries with an Xbox wireless controller, and two batteries have lasted a few weeks for moderate gaming time. The best thing is to swap out the batteries for fully charged ones and immediately recharge the empty ones. It does feel good not having to throw batteries in the trash.
How Recharging the Batteries Work
Included in the box with the batteries is the battery charger with eight slots that can fit AA or AAA-sized batteries. The best part about this battery charger is that they are compatible with EBL Ni-MH rechargeable batteries. However, you can also use other brand rechargeable batteries that are also Ni-MH or Ni-CD, and they will still recharge from this battery charger.
Regarding recharging these EBL AA batteries from 0% to 100%, the included battery charger can get them back to full power within 6 hours. Something important to know is that the battery charger has a 5V/2.0A (10W) max input, so you should use a 10W USB-A port with the charger to get the fastest recharging speed for the batteries.
The accessibility of recharging these batteries is also great because you can use a wall charger or even a power bank to recharge them. After all, the battery charger uses a Micro-USB input port to be powered from. Also, the charger has LED lights above each battery slot; a red light means the battery is still recharging, while a green light means the battery is fully charged. Some batteries may recharge to full power sooner than others, so it’s very helpful to know which battery is fully charged and which one is not.
I ran two battery capacity tests using a separate charger; the charger only allows testing up to four batteries simultaneously. For my first test, I had the discharge rate set to 500mA, which is pretty high. With that, I averaged about a 1926mAh capacity from the batteries, which is low and was about 68% efficiency from these batteries. That said, a high discharge rate would naturally result in lower efficiency, so I ran another battery capacity test with EBL batteries having a 200mA discharge rate. This time, the EBL batteries scored about 90% efficiency, which is much better.
|EBL Rechargeable AA Batteries 2800mAh 8 Pack and 8-Bay AA AAA Individual Rechargeable Battery.||29.99 Buy on Amazon|
I honestly can’t say much about the build quality of these batteries because they’re just batteries. The average consumer won’t know the build quality difference between these EBL batteries Vs. Duracell ones, and it’s something I didn’t take into consideration. As long as these recharge well and are functional, they’re good in my book. On a side note, these batteries feel like any other AA battery brand.
If you want a low-cost and reliable way to use AA or AAA batteries, I recommend these EBL batteries that come with their charger. I’m not sure how these will fair for long-term usage, but it beats buying a pack of single-use batteries and throwing them away after they’re fully depleted.
- Batteries. ProCyco technology. 1200 Tech, ProCyco (Professional recycle) helps maximize its best power performance while charging. 【For free adapter, please go to Promotion】.
- Low self-discharge. Embedded seal structure expand the space of crystal lattice, make more room for hydrogen, so EBL batteries will holds 80% power after 3 years benefit from its concentration to low self-discharge project.
- Independent Battery Charger. Charge any number of AA AAA rechargeable batteries without combination to make your charging easier.
- USB Input Design. USB Input with multiple Charging Options, is suitable for all kinds of 5V 2A Power supply, like power bank, adapter,（NOTE: Fit for 2.0A adapter only, DO NOT use 1.0A adapter）easy for daily use, more convenient.【For free adapter, please go to Promotion】.
- Battery storage case. Batteries are packed with battery storage case, easy to storage batteries, very convenient for taking and travelling.
USB-C rechargeable AA batteries, really?
While shopping at one of our usual suppliers, we came across an intriguing gadget: AA batteries, with an integrated USB-C charging port and which promise a capacity of 1600mAh for a 1.5V voltage. We couldn’t resist the temptation to buy a pack, just to check if an AA battery with an integrated charger really works.
We chose batteries sold in Switzerland by a German company but their real country of origin is not mentioned anywhere. After some research, we realized that it is a generic product made in Asia and sold under a multitude of brand names.
Rechargeable batteries with built-in charger
These batteries look like ordinary AA batteries except for the USB-C receptacle on the positive pole side. They are based on lithium-ion chemistry, which means that the cell inside has a voltage of around 3.2V. Therefore, in addition to a charger, the battery also contains a regulator to lower this voltage to 1.5V.
To see how these batteries behave, we built a small test bench with two Yocto-Watt batteries, each connected to an AA battery holder and a large power resistance. The two Yocto-Watt are driven by a YoctoHub-Ethernet powered by a PoE Ethernet cable. This configuration enables the experiment to live its life quietly in its own corner.
Our test bench
Comparison with an alkaline battery
We tested in parallel one of the USB-C batteries, which we call battery A, just out of the charger, with a Duracell PLUS MN1500 alkaline battery. We discharged them with two 10Ω resistances while we displayed the values measured by the two Yocto-Watt in Yocto-Visualization.
USB-C battery vs. alkaline battery
We can see that the battery provides a stable voltage of 1.45V while supplying about 145mA. This voltage drops abruptly after 8 hours to stabilize at ~1.1V for half an hour before the battery dies, and then turns on again very briefly 2 hours later.
This voltage drop to 1.1V is probably deliberate: it allows devices that detect the drop in voltage of their power supply to realize that the batteries are almost empty. On the other hand, the brief restart is probably not deliberate, and if you wait long enough, you realize that these parasitic restarts can occur several times. This behavior could eventually cause problems for digital devices of which the power supply is not managed by a supervisor.
The USB-C battery turns back on several times
It is worth noting that by providing about 145mA for 8.5 hours, the USB-C battery only delivered 1230 mAH when it promised 1600 mAH.
For its part, the alkaline battery, which by nature is not regulated, saw its voltage drop steadily for 17 hours before passing the threshold of 1.1V where the USB-C battery turned off.
Comparison with a NiMH battery
We did the same experiment again with a second battery of the pack freshly charged, that we call battery B, by comparing with an Eneloop (Panasonic) BK-3MCCE of 1900mAh battery, also freshly charged. We chose a 1900mAh NiMh battery because it is the closest capacity to 1600mAh that we could find, but higher capacities are easily available.
Comparing battery B with a NiMH battery
First surprise, unlike battery A, this battery B worked for only 7H45 and provided only 1100mAh. As for the Eneloop battery, it stayed above 1.1V for 15H. During this period, it provided 1800mAh. We note that Eneloop also somewhat lied about the real capacity of its batteries, but not as much as the manufacturer of the USB-C batteries.
Considering that a discharge of 150mA is probably a bit high for the applications AA batteries are designed for, we did the experiment again by discharging battery B with a 100Ω resistance that is to say a discharge of 15 mA.
Only 1170mAh for 15mA discharge (Battery B)
This time again, although slightly better, the measured capacity of 1170mAh is much lower than the announced 1600mAh.
We quickly tested the maximum current we can draw using an electronic load.
Max current test with an electronic load.
- One can draw about 3.2A on the Duracell battery before its voltage drops below 1.1V.
- One can draw about 6.5A on the Eneloop battery before its voltage drops below 1.1V.
- The USB-C battery manages to maintain about 1.5V as long as the current remains below 1.7A, past this limit the voltage drops quite quickly and the battery switches to protection mode above 2.4A, at this point the voltage is only 1.15V
Keep in mind that these tests were done with new/freshly charged batteries and that these limits can only be maintained for a few seconds.
Being based on a lithium-ion cell, the USB-C battery should have a negligible self-discharge compared to a NiMH battery, provided that the electronics inside the battery have an equally negligible consumption when the battery is not in use. We didn’t have time to test the battery for a very long time, so we re-tested the A battery 100 hours after charging it.
On such a short duration, the result is inconclusive as the battery A took 8h45 to discharge instead of 8h30. We can just deduce that the idle consumption of the battery electronics is not prohibitive.
Is there a real advantage to this kind of batteries?
We’ve been looking into what kind of advantage a rechargeable AA 1.5V battery with a built-in charger would have over standard rechargeable batteries.
No need for a charger
This is the most obvious advantage: you don’t need a dedicated charger anymore, but does the decrease in capacity justify the gain in size when you can easily find tiny USB chargers barely bigger than the 2 or 4 AA NiMH 2500mAh battery packs they can charge?
These USB-C batteries provide a constant voltage of 1.45V which is very close to the voltage of a new non-rechargeable battery. So you can use them in devices that do not work with NiMH batteries which have an average voltage of 1.2V.
Recharge the batteries without taking them out
You could think that this configuration would enable you to recharge these batteries without having to take them out of the device that uses them. It turns out that this is not a good idea at all. For one thing, we’ve noticed that simply plugging in the supplied charging cable ties all the negative poles of the batteries together. If your device contains several of these batteries connected in series, you will create short circuits. On the other hand, we discovered that a 5V voltage appears at the terminals of the battery when it is being charged. So even if your device contains only one battery, it may not appreciate the operation.
5 volts? seriously?
Managing to fit a charger and a regulator into a AA size battery with a voltage of 1.5V, while keeping a reasonably usable capacity is a remarkable achievement. However, even if these batteries can be directly recharged from any USB source like USB power supply, computer, power-bank, and so on, we are not really convinced of the actual utility of this architecture with integrated charger, unless
- You have a device that refuses to work with NiMH batteries
- You are planning a trip where equipment weight/size optimization is mission critical
- You have a bad habit of misplacing your stuff, including your battery charger