Nickel-Cadmium Battery Variations

For more than 50 years, manufacturers of portable devices primarily relied on nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries. However, a significant shift started in the 1990s as manufacturers began adopting nickel-metal-halide (NiMH) types to address the challenge of toxicity. When designing NiMH batteries, manufacturers maintained the bulk of the advantages of NiCd. Today, the use of NiCd is still limited because of concerns for the environment. 

When you decide to use NiCd or any of its variants because of associated benefits, it is prudent to ensure that it is in good condition by testing with battery load testers. In this post, we will highlight some of the top nickel variations that you can consider for your facility and devices. 

Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd)

This type of battery was designed in 1899 by Jungner Waldemar, and it was preferred because it came with unique benefits over lead-acid models. Note that by then, lead-acid was the only other type of battery available. Most companies designing emergency medical equipment and power tools preferred NiCd batteries. Towards the end of the 80s, ultra-high capacity NiCd were the most preferred types of batteries. Today, they still remain some of the most rugged and preferred batteries, especially in the airline industry. The cost of NiCd is also lower compared to lead-acid models. 


Studies on Nickel-metal-halide started around 1967, but the batteries were discovered to have major instabilities because of metal-halide. This is why Nickel-Hydrogen was created. Newer halide alloys that were discovered later in the 1980s helped to improve the stability issues and energy.  Today, Nickel-metal-halide batteries are also used for electric powertrain where more robustness is needed. 

One major concern about nickel-metal-hydride batteries is that charging can be pretty tricky. With about 20% self-discharge in the first 24-hours, and about 10% for every month thereafter, it implies that you will need to recharge the battery regularly. Make sure to check their charge and state-of-health before storage and after storage using appropriate battery load testers


This battery variation was created as an effort to substitute cadmium for a different metal, and iron was the first choice. However, Waldemar Jungner abandoned the project because of high gassing and low charge efficiency. The project was picked up around 100 years later by Thomas Edison, who tried to substitute lead-acid batteries. 

Nickel-iron battery utilizes iron anode and oxide-hydroxide with a potassium hydroxide electrolyte that helps to generate a nominal cell voltage of 1.2V. In standby applications, NiFe batteries are resilient to overcharges and can have a long battery life of over 20 years. However, their specific energy is low, have poor low-temperature performance, and self-discharge is also high. Note that although NiFe batteries use a taper, just like NiMh and NiCd, you should avoid a constant charge because it can damage the cells. Instead, the voltage should be allowed to float free. More importantly, make battery testing with a battery load tester part of your system management. 

As you can see, Nickel-based batteries have come a long way, and each variant has its own pros and cons. Make sure to review each deeply to determine suitability for your research unit or devices that you make. Remember that just like other batteries, such as Li-Ion, you need to regularly test them with battery load testers to be sure they are in good condition.