NiCad vs Lithium Ion

posted in: Power Tools | 0

There’s never enough money to buy the tools you want.

Nobody wants to make a stupid decision they regret later on. Cordless (battery powered) tools are an essential part of a man’s set of tools. Corded tools competing for time on the extension cord, tripping over extension cords, cords not long enough are always a frustration when working on a project.

Understanding the difference between NiCad vs Lithium Ion batteries can save you a lot of money or trouble. I can always use more money and less trouble, how about you?

The only question you really need to ask is usage.

Are you a frequent daily user, or just an occasional user? Professional contractor, or just a part-time hobbyist?

Unless you have money to burn, that is the only question you need to ask yourself in deciding between NiCad and Lithium Ion powered tools. Here’s why.

One of the biggest costs in a cordless tool is the battery pack and charging system, not so much the tool itself, though that can vary if you go with a high quality brushless motor.

Lithium Batteries:

  • Cost two to three times more than NiCad batteries.
  • Lithium batteries are lighter, so the tool can be easier to work with, or you can just bulk up those pencil arms.
  • Lithium batteries charge faster, but have less cycles per lifetime. Lighter weight and faster charging is a benefit if you are a professional contractor using them all day long.
  • Lithium batteries have no “memory” issues like NiCad. More on that below.
  • Lithium batteries will hold a charge longer during periods where it is not being used.

NiCad Batteries:

  • Cost half to a third of what similar Lithium Ion batteries cost.
  • They are heavier, but a real man has biceps, so unless your name is Nancy or you are an 85 year old man it isn’t a problem.
  • They take longer to charge, but have more cycles per lifetime, often a 1,000 or more cycles. Since they are cheaper, you can just buy a spare battery to keep on the charger.
  • NiCad batteries have a memory problem.

The forgetful battery.

NiCad batteries have a “memory effect”. The battery remembers the point in it’s charging cycle where the recharging began. In future usage, the voltage available for the tool will drop at that point as if it had been discharged. For that reason you should always use a NiCad battery down to the last bit of juice before putting it back on the charger. Another good reason to keep a spare battery. Swapping back and forth like this will keep the memory effect down for both batteries.

The only other question is Voltage – 7.2 Volt, 14.4 V, 18V or 24+V systems.

Higher voltage equals more power and longer run times for your tools. Now we are getting back into the usage question, not only are you a contractor or hobbyist, but now what kind of tool are you powering? Here is a rough guide.

7.2V to 14.4V Systems

  • ¬†Fastening small screws. Some of these are nice lightweight drivers not much bigger than an electric toothbrush. They are ideal for small screws on electronics and the like.
  • Drilling the occasional small hole.

18V Systems (most widely used)

  • Contractor level fastening screws and drilling holes.
  • Circular Saws and Reciprocating Saws.
  • Some impact drills or impact wrenches.

24V and up Systems

  • Tools that supply serious power and torque.

This website is for you. Your comments and questions are always welcome.


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