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Power tool batteries, understanding the difference.

When looking for a new power tool you may be slightly bewildered by the huge range of power tool batteries out there, it is important not to pick the wrong one because the battery is what makes the tool work! Here will look at characteristics as well as the various types  of battery NiCd, NiMH & Li-Ion and what exactly all the jargon means.

NiCd, NiMH & Li-Ion. What is the Difference?

The three most common battery technologies for cordless power tools are  nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium ion (Li-Ion). The materials used in the batteries aren’t themselves important, however the characteristics that they give the battery are.  On the whole NiCd are the cheapest of the three due to being the oldest technology and are most likely to be bundles with the cheaper power tool ranges. Li-Ion batteries are the latest in battery technology and are pretty expensive on account of this, NiMH slots somewhere between the two. We will look in further detail at each battery type below.

As well as the technology of the battery, it is also important to buy quality. So we will include a few of our recommendations of power tool bundles and replacement batteries.

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd)





Bosch PSR 18 Cordless NiCad Drill Driver

Bosch PSR 18 Cordless NiCad Drill Driver           BUY NOW

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The biggest advantage to NiCd batteries is that they are cheap, which is why they are included in most budget power tools out there. They are great for some jobs and should keep going a long time as they are tough, but are easily out preformed by the more expensive options.



  • Difficult to damage by dropping or storing incorrectly
  • Long life cycle of around 1000 charges
  • Less likely to be damaged by fully discharging the battery
  • Least expensive of the three options
  • Fast charge time


  • Heaviest of the three batteries
  • Lowest capacity (shortest run time)
  • Should be left to cool before being recharged
  • Battery should be fully discharged around once a month
  • The Cadmium in the battery is very damaging to the battery and should be disposed of correctly.


Nickel Hydride (NiMH)


The battery pictured is a replacement for a Makita 8391D Combi Drill or 6391D Drill Driver.

Shop all NiMH batteries

Although not the best choice, NiMH do improve upon NiCd batteries in a number of ways most notably is their increased capacity with a single charge lasting up to 3 times longer. They are also less toxic to the environment, but are more sensitive and can be damaged by being stored incorrectly.


  • Lighter than NiCd batteries
  • Can run 2-3 times longer than a NiCd on a single charge
  • Less expensive than Li-ion batteries
  • Will last a long time if stored correctly
  • Not damaging to the environment


  • Sensitive to temperature (Should be stored between 1°C-39°C)
  • Fully discharging the battery and lack of use can damage the battery
  • More expensive that NiCd batteries


Lithium Ion (Li-Ion)

Makita CLX202AJ 10.8 V CXT Combi and Impact Driver with 2 x 2.0Ah batteries

Makita Combi and Impact Driver with 2 x 2.0Ah batteries  BUY NOW

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Li-Ion batteries are the latest mainstream battery technology and is definitely the best choice of the three. They out preform the other two technologies in all areas although lthough they are also the most expensive.

They are fast charging and have a high capacity making them great for regular use, although care should be taken during recharging as over heating can permently damage the capacity of the battery. Most reputable manufacturers do include features to protect against this.


  • The most lightweight of the three
  • Can run 2-3 times longer than a NiCd on a single charge (The same as NiMH)
  • Less sensitive to temperature changes than NiMH batteries
  • Less sensitive to recharging and storage methods
  • Have the longest charge/recharge life cycle
  • Not damaging to the environment


  • Overheating during recharging can damage the battery (Most quality brands will have features to prevent this)
  • Average life cycle of under 500 charges
  • Most expensive of the three



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