Lithium AA Battery - Rechargeable vs Non-Rechargeable AA Lithium Batteries
Lithium is a lightweight, rather reactive metal, and its chemistries are commonly used in batteries providing different features including voltage, capacity, shelf-life, drain current, and similar.
A typical AA battery is a 1.5 volts battery and with all the lithium chemistries in use, getting "the right one" may be a somewhat difficult task. But it shouldn't be ...
Lithium AA Batteries - Dimensions, Chemistries, and Features
Lithium AA batteries feature physical dimensions of 14.5 mm (0.57 inches) in diameter and 50.5 mm (1.99 inches) in length - just like any other AA battery.
For many years, the typical AA battery voltage was 1.5 volts with many devices still accepting only 1.5V AA batteries.
Lithium batteries that commonly feature 3.0+ volts, should NOT be used instead of 1.5V AA batteries unless explicitly allowed by the device manufacturer.
The following comparison chart lists some of the most popular AA battery chemistries, with their most important features and specifications.
|Chemistry||Common Name||Rechargeable||Typical Capacity (mAh)||Voltage (V)
|Zinc Carbon||R6, 15D||No||600 - 1600||1.5|
|Alkaline||LR6, 15A||No (Mostly No)||1800 - 2700||1.5|
|Li-FeS2||FR6, 15LF||No||2700 - 3300||1.5 (1.8 max)|
|Li-ion||14500||Yes||600 - 2000+||3.6 - 3.7|
|NiCd||KR6, 1.2K2||Yes||600 - 1000||1.2|
|NiMH||HR6, 1.2H2||Yes||700 - 2800||1.2|
|NiOOH||-||No||2200 - 2700||1.5 (1.7 max)|
|NiZn||ZR6||Yes||1500 - 1800||1.6 - 1.65|
Lithium AA batteries may feature several different chemistries, including:
- Lithium Iron Disulfide (Li-FeS2),
- Lithium Thionyl Chloride (Li-SOCl2),
- Lithium Manganese Dioxide (Li-MnO2).
Lithium Iron Disulfide (Li-FeS2) AA Batteries
Lithium Iron Disulfide (Li-FeS2) AA batteries are non-rechargeable batteries, featuring a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts and a typical capacity of 2700-3300 mAh, with some models having capacity up to 3500-3600 mAh.
Although their Open Circuit Voltage (OCV) is 1.8 volts, as soon as the load is applied, the voltage of the Li-FeS2 AA batteries drops down to 1.5 volts, making them compatible with older Zinc-Carbon and Alkaline AA batteries.
Other benefits of Li-FeS2 AA chemistry include extra-long shelf life (up to 20 years!), stable capacity regardless of the discharge current (at least up to 600-800 mA current), supports of the high drain devices, etc.
That is why Li-FeS2 AA batteries are the preferred choice for high drain, but also for standby applications like cameras, flashlights, security systems, medical devices, etc.
One of the most popular Li-FeS2 AA batteries is the Energizer Li-FeS2 AA battery (Datasheet, PDF, link opens in the new window), which practically sets the standards for other Li-FeS2 AA batteries.
Lithium-Ion AA Batteries - 14500 Batteries
Lithium-Ion AA batteries are based on one of the lithium-ion rechargeable chemistries, including:
- Lithium Manganese Oxide (IMR, LiMn204) AA battery chemistry feature a nominal voltage of 3.6 - 3.7 V per cell, with a maximum, recommended charging voltage of 4.2 V. IMR AA batteries commonly have a smaller capacity but are capable of delivering stronger currents.
- Lithium Manganese Nickel (INR, LiNiMnCoO2) AA battery chemistry is very similar to IMR AA battery chemistry and they both can provide strong currents, with slightly lower capacity.
- Lithium Iron Phosphate (IFR, LiFePO4) AA battery chemistry feature a nominal voltage of 3.2 - 3.3 V per cell, with the maximum, recommended charging voltage of 3.5 - 3.6 V.
- Lithium Cobalt Oxide (ICR, LiCoO2) AA battery chemistry feature a nominal voltage of 3.6 - 3.7 V per cell, with the maximum, recommended charging voltage of 4.2 V. They commonly have higher capacities, but maximum allowed currents are often limited to just a few C.
14500 batteries feature physical dimensions of 14 x 53 mm making them very similar to true AA battery dimensions of 14.5 x 50.5 mm - in order to make them more compatible, many manufacturers of 14500 batteries actually make them closer to AA standard dimensions (14.5 x 50.5) and often advertise as "lithium AA batteries".
However, due to the larger voltage (3.2 - 3.7 volts), lithium-ion batteries should not be used instead of 1.5V AA batteries, at least not in devices that don't support both battery types.
On the other hand, advances in chemistry and electronics allow the manufacturers to combine rechargeable lithium-ion chemistry with various Battery Management Systems (BMS), giving lithium AA batteries features that were unheard of just a few years ago.
Micro-USB Rechargeable 14500 3.6V Batteries
Rechargeable lithium batteries should always be recharged using dedicated lithium battery chargers, but in order to simplify things, some manufacturers offer 14500 batteries with a micro-USB port.
Although some capacity is lost due to the volume taken by the BMS and USB charging port, such 14500 batteries don't require dedicated chargers - just plug them into the nearest USB port or USB battery charger and recharge the battery in few hours at most.
USB Rechargeable 14500 3.6V Batteries
Some manufacturers take a step further with a USB rechargeable 14500 batteries, installing a full-size USB plug in their batteries.
Since such batteries don't require any cabling, they simplify things even more. But, on the other hand, such USB plug takes precious volume, decreasing the capacity.
Rechargeable 1.5V AA Lithium-Ion Batteries
Rechargeable 1.5V AA lithium-ion batteries feature one of the common lithium-ion chemistries with voltages between 3.2 and 3.7 volts, but they also come with the built-in Battery Management System (BMS) that ensures output voltage of the "required" 1.5 volts.
Such batteries can be recharged only with the battery chargers intended/designed for such batteries, usually manufactured only by the battery manufacturer and sold as a combo.
Micro-USB Rechargeable 1.5V AA Lithium-Ion Batteries
Micro-USB Rechargeable 1.5V AA lithium-ion batteries are based on one of the lithium-ion rechargeable chemistries, they have the built-in BMS that ensures 1.5V output voltage, but also allows the users to recharge the battery using a micro-USB cable connected to any standard USB port.
Personally, if You are looking for a rechargeable 1.5V AA lithium battery, this is perhaps your best option - it supports a large number of charging/discharging cycles, stores a respectable amount of energy, and requires NO special battery chargers.
Lithium Thionyl Chloride (Li-SOCl2) AA Batteries
Lithium Thionyl Chloride (Li-SOCl2) AA batteries are non-rechargeable batteries, featuring a nominal voltage of ~3.6 volts and a nominal capacity of 2400-2700 mAh.
Li-SOCl2 AA batteries feature good energy density, long shelf life (often 10+ years) and can be used for various standby and backup applications.
Although some manufacturers advertise their Li-SOCl2 AA batteries as high-drain batteries, they perform best when used as backup batteries and generally for applications not requiring strong currents.
Lithium Manganese Dioxide (Li-MnO2) AA Batteries
Lithium Manganese Dioxide (Li-MnO2) AA batteries are non-rechargeable lithium AA batteries, often labeled as "CR AA" or CR14505 batteries, featuring a nominal voltage of 3.0 volts (OCV ~3.3 volts when brand new), a cutoff voltage of 2.0 volts, and a typical capacity of ~2000 mAh.
CR AA batteries feature a very long shelf life of up to or even more than 10 years, and as such, they are suitable for standby and backup devices and applications.
But, CR AA batteries are also capable of delivering strong currents, making them also suitable for high drain devices like cameras, flashlights, and similar.
Long Story Short: If You are looking for a 1.5V lithium AA battery, your best bet is a non-rechargeable Li-FeS2 Lithium Iron Disulfide AA battery.
If You are looking for a rechargeable 1.5V lithium battery, your best bet is a rechargeable 1.5V lithium battery featuring the built-in micro-USB charging port.
If You are looking for AA batteries with higher voltages, with several other 3.0-3.7 volts rechargeable and non-rechargeable AA battery chemistries available, choose according to your own needs and requirements.
But, never, really never use 3.0-3.7V AA batteries instead of 1.5V AA batteries, unless explicitly allowed by the device manufacturer - such voltage difference can easily damage electronic devices.