Written by Thierry

Cordless drill: Li-Ion battery or NiCd battery?

You'll be faced with many choices when you go for a cordless drill. After you've found the right type of drill, you'll look at power, durability, and price, among other things. One important factor in your consideration should also be the type of battery. The most common batteries are Li-ion (or lithium ion) and NiCd (or nickel-cadmium). Is 1 of the 2 better and if so, which one? In this article, I'll explain the differences between these battery types to you.

In short

Li-ion battery NiCd battery
May lose capacity No Yes
Minimal self-discharge Yes No
Small and lightweight Yes No
Not as taxing on the environment Yes No
Affordable No Yes

Memory effect

Battery memory effect

We refer to the fact that the battery's capacity decreases the more often you charge it as the memory effect. It occurs when you charge a battery before it's completely empty. This happens especially in NiCd batteries. If you charge a Li-ion battery halfway through, there's no problem. By storing Li-ions halfway charged and as cool as possible when you're not using them, you'll also keep the loss of capacity to a minimum. Although a 4% loss after a year at room temperature is not that bad either.

Winner in the category 'Memory effect': Li-ion battery


Battery self-discharge

Self-discharge refers to the battery's slowly running out when it's not in use. Pretty annoying when the battery on your drill turns out to be empty when you get it out again after months. You'll first have to wait for a few hours for the battery to charge. NiCd batteries have a self-discharge of about 10% a month. This means that if you use your drill once a year, even screwing in 1 screw will be a challenge. This effect barely occurs in Li-ion batteries. There may be a very slight self-discharge, but it's negligible.

Winner in the category 'Self-discharge': Li-ion battery

Size and weight

Battery size and weight

If we look at the way in which a battery is produced, it's a simple fact that Li-ion batteries are more compact and lighter than NiCd ones. When you're DIYing, of course, you'll want to keep any unnecessary inconvenience to a minimum. After all, it's physical work you're doing. The choice for a cordless drill with a Li-ion battery is a choice for a drill that's somewhat lighter and easier to use than when you choose a cordless drill powered by a NiCd battery.

Winner in the category 'Size and weight': Li-ion battery

Environmental impact

Tax on environmental batteries

We could say a lot about this, but when it comes down to it, cadmium is toxic. Since 2008, rechargeable NiCd batteries have even been illegal except in cordless tools and alarm systems. It won't be long until the NiCd batteries in drills will be banned too. They won't be produced anymore, and in the end they won't be available at all anymore. Li-ion batteries, of course, aren't made of biodegradable material either, but at least they're a lot less damaging to the environment than NiCd batteries.

Winner in the category 'Environmental impact': Li-ion battery


Battery price

Is there no area at all where NiCd batteries beat Li-ion batteries? Yes there is, and it's price, as producing NiCd batteries is a lot cheaper than producing a Li-ion battery. You, as a consumer, will obviously be able to tell from the price of purchase. This can be nuanced slightly when you imagine NiCd batteries will need to be replaced sooner than Li-ion batteries, but nonetheless, the initial purchase will be a lot cheaper, and both types are equally usable in principle.

Winner in the category 'Price': NiCd battery


When it comes to power, the Li-ion and NiCd batteries perform similarly in principle. However, the final judgment after comparing all areas is tough: the Li-ion beats the NiCd on all fronts, except price. Fortunately, Li-ion batteries continue to be developed further and this will eventually push prices down more and more. On top of that, NiCd batteries are slowly disappearing, because they contain the harmful cadmium. Until then, the choice remains yours.

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