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Thread: How long do NiCd batteries last?

  1. #1

    Default How long do NiCd batteries last?

    I found some old Eveready CH15 NiCd batteries in a Zip Loc baggie in a box. These aren't that old and are date coded September 1995 and most were leaking electrolyte around the positive electrode.

    They weren't stored inside a device, so obviously not abused. I bet these batteries had less than 100 cycles of use. Why did the electrolyte leak and how long could I expect NiCd or NiMH to last from the date of manufacturing?

  2. #2
    Flashaholic* BatteryCharger's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Over 10 years sounds like a perfectly reasonable life expectancy for me, considering it's nothing more than a thin steel shell filled with nasty chemicals.
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    Flashaholic* Sub_Umbra's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    My understanding (admittedly limited) is that individual NiCd cells should not be discharged below 0.6 volts. (I'm aware of the common 1 volt per cell admonition commonly repeated about NiCd packs, but that's a whole 'nother subject) Even though NiCds have a much slower self discharge than NiMH cells it is still a rapid rate when compared to other chemistries. (Alkaline and Lithium Manganese Dioxide come to mind)

    From what I've read here, laying up NiCds is a science and it is easy for me to imagine a scenario where the NiCds were haphazzardly layed up or more likely just stopped being used, and at whatever state they were in began to self discharge. Eleven years is plenty of time for them to reach a level way below the 0.6 volt minimum discharge. While that would most likely kill the cell, I don't know if that would begin a process that could end in leakage. I've gotten a great deal of use out of old NiCd cells -- but not that old.

    I hope someone with more experience than myself can step up to the plate on this one.
    Last edited by Sub_Umbra; 03-27-2006 at 02:04 PM.

  4. #4

    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    I washed them and ran a test anyhow.

    Two of them failed. They're all rated at 650mAh
    94-03: 156mAh
    95-09 #1: 350mAh

  5. #5
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    I just had brand new MAHA PowerEx 1.8Ah/2.0Ah AA cells still in plastic cases and still wrapped leak!
    Bill

    I'm a retired mechanic not a electronic/electrical engineer!

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    Flashaholic* koala's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    This GP NiCd has gone through all sorts of abuse during it's early years. 11 years old, still going strong despite the worn plastic jacket. Last time I checked was 680mAh. Now it lives a quiet life in the Microsoft Wireless mouse. It used to have a twin brother, unfortunately I misplaced it. This is the oldest working cell I've got.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Actually NiCd cells have an infinite life in theory (other chemistries don't!) and they dye from leaking seals or failing seperators.
    There are good ones which last >3 decades, I just had a talkabout them with a friend. He has 30 year old NiCd Sanyo AA cells with 400mAh nominal capacity which still work.
    I do have SAFT D cells, also from the 70ies and some of them are still fine. Self discharge rate is higher with these old cells.

    As much for charge cycles: Prof. Wieszpeiner (developer of the CCS charging system) came to 5000 cycles without any signifiicant damages.
    They stopped the test because everybody was bored, not because the cells showed a weakness.

    And there had been NiFe cells more than 5 decades old and still working.
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  8. #8
    Flashaholic* abvidledUK's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    I have some AAA 250mah nicd's, approx 10 years old.

    Originally bought 12, down to 6 left.

    6 have lost capacity over the years.

    I charge them every so often, use them occasionally, never had a leak, still seem full capacity, used mostly in TV remotes.

    Always low discharge uses.

    Sold by Jessops, UK photo dealer, don't know who made them.
    Batteries, batteries, I need more batteries ........

  9. #9

    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeLu
    Actually NiCd cells have an infinite life in theory (other chemistries don't!) and they dye from leaking seals or failing seperators.
    There are good ones which last >3 decades, I just had a talkabout them with a friend. He has 30 year old NiCd Sanyo AA cells with 400mAh nominal capacity which still work.
    I do have SAFT D cells, also from the 70ies and some of them are still fine. Self discharge rate is higher with these old cells.

    As much for charge cycles: Prof. Wieszpeiner (developer of the CCS charging system) came to 5000 cycles without any signifiicant damages.
    They stopped the test because everybody was bored, not because the cells showed a weakness.

    And there had been NiFe cells more than 5 decades old and still working.
    Do all those old working cells you mentioned still pass the discharge capacity test with an acceptable result? My 12 year old Eveaready NiCd's do work, but the discharage capacity is around 150mAh. I think my dad used these batteries in Apple QuickTake 100, probably the very first consumer digital camera.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Had an electric razor that ran on 3 NiCd batteries, purchased it in Feb 1990. Used it five days a week until one of the cells died in April 2001. Over eleven years of use! My secret was to charge the razor up and run it until it would not turn the blades anymore before recharging. Every three months I would leave the switch on with the batteries dead for 24 hours before recharging it.
    A friend of mine had a NiCd pack last 17 years before he replaced it so NiCd is not sexy... but it is the most reliable, rugged and long living batteries I had ever seen. If I was stuck on a desert island for 10 years and had a solar charger, I would use NiCd with everything.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Quote Originally Posted by BentHeadTX
    Had an electric razor that ran on 3 NiCd batteries, purchased it in Feb 1990. Used it five days a week until one of the cells died in April 2001. Over eleven years of use! My secret was to charge the razor up and run it until it would not turn the blades anymore before recharging. Every three months I would leave the switch on with the batteries dead for 24 hours before recharging it.
    A friend of mine had a NiCd pack last 17 years before he replaced it so NiCd is not sexy... but it is the most reliable, rugged and long living batteries I had ever seen. If I was stuck on a desert island for 10 years and had a solar charger, I would use NiCd with everything.
    That's actually a good way of killing the weakest cell from polarity reversal.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Quote Originally Posted by Handlobraesing
    That's actually a good way of killing the weakest cell from polarity reversal.
    Back in the 80's, portable x-ray machines used HUGE NiCd packs to power them. I had to do the 6 month maintenance on them by cycling the batteries. From what I recall, they were 144 VDC packs. We would hook a large bank of lights to the cells and let it run them for 24 hours until the filaments would not glow. This basically killed the pack to dead.

    Then, we would take the packs apart, remove the bus bars, check the voltage (0.2V or less) and hook variable power resistors to the cells. Dial up about a 4 amp discharge and keep dropping the resistance until it was at zero ohms. To make sure, we would jump across the cells with cables to give it a dead short. Then we waited another 24 hours to make sure those monster NiCd cells were DEAD!

    The next day, we would remove the shorting cables and start bolting the bus bars back on the batteries. Once it was back together, we hooked the charger to it and watch the voltage start rolling back up. As a precaution, we replaced the packs every 5 years although they worked great with conditioning. Once a month, they would run the portable around the hospital to kill the batteries... sometimes they did not make it back so a forklift was called in. Those packs weighed well over 150 pounds and were a mother to move.

    Defib batteries were brought back to life by... well... defibbing them to "wake them up". Now we use Cadex conditioners for those defib batteries and portable x-ray units use Hawker AGM cells so no more screwing around with mega-NiCd packs. That was why I would absolutely KILL my shaver NiCd's... it was much faster and they did last 11 years.

    Warning to kids at home! DON'T mess with giant NiCd packs unless you have a blast apron, face shield, detailed proceedures and insulated wrenches. Oh yeah, I did not defib batteries... the Physio Control guy did that stunt. I did do something called "ride the lightning" though (I won't tell you)

    Sadly, those days are gone and NiMH/Li-Ion does not like playing those games
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  13. #13
    Flashaholic* Sub_Umbra's Avatar
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    BentHeadTX,

    Have you ever been in a situation where you had to follow some procedure prior to laying up NiCad cells/packs for intermediate storage? I don't need to do this but I've heard of it off and on and it interests me.

    I'm real close to expanding my use of NiCads a little and I'm curious if you have any idea how long a charged NiCad can just sit around. I'm not asking about self discharge -- I'm wondering about actual cell damage.

    Thanks

  14. #14

    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Quote Originally Posted by BentHeadTX
    Back in the 80's, portable x-ray machines used HUGE NiCd packs to power them. I had to do the 6 month maintenance on them by cycling the batteries. From what I recall, they were 144 VDC packs. We would hook a large bank of lights to the cells and let it run them for 24 hours until the filaments would not glow. This basically killed the pack to dead.

    Then, we would take the packs apart, remove the bus bars, check the voltage (0.2V or less) and hook variable power resistors to the cells. Dial up about a 4 amp discharge and keep dropping the resistance until it was at zero ohms. To make sure, we would jump across the cells with cables to give it a dead short. Then we waited another 24 hours to make sure those monster NiCd cells were DEAD!

    The next day, we would remove the shorting cables and start bolting the bus bars back on the batteries. Once it was back together, we hooked the charger to it and watch the voltage start rolling back up. As a precaution, we replaced the packs every 5 years although they worked great with conditioning. Once a month, they would run the portable around the hospital to kill the batteries... sometimes they did not make it back so a forklift was called in. Those packs weighed well over 150 pounds and were a mother to move.

    Defib batteries were brought back to life by... well... defibbing them to "wake them up". Now we use Cadex conditioners for those defib batteries and portable x-ray units use Hawker AGM cells so no more screwing around with mega-NiCd packs. That was why I would absolutely KILL my shaver NiCd's... it was much faster and they did last 11 years.

    Warning to kids at home! DON'T mess with giant NiCd packs unless you have a blast apron, face shield, detailed proceedures and insulated wrenches. Oh yeah, I did not defib batteries... the Physio Control guy did that stunt. I did do something called "ride the lightning" though (I won't tell you)

    Sadly, those days are gone and NiMH/Li-Ion does not like playing those games
    Are you talking about sealed NiCd dry cells or vented liquid electrolyte NiCd? They're quite different.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    If you don't do a full discharge, don't you get the memory effect?

  16. #16

    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Quote Originally Posted by GarageBoy
    If you don't do a full discharge, don't you get the memory effect?
    To a varying degree depending on the usage habit. It is fully reversible by a full discharge followed by a full charge.

    It's more harmful to let the batteries drain all the way, because the difference in capacity among many cells would cause the weakest cell to give up first and get reverse charged by the stronger batteries.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    You answered part of the question yourself

    "in a Zip Loc baggie in a box."

    Knowing how long they have been left there in that condition will probably provide you with the rest of your answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Handlobraesing
    Why did the electrolyte leak

  18. #18

    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    Being in a Zic Loc baggie isn't bad storage conditions. Conditions known to cause fluid leakage is storing installed in a device that draws parasitic load.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: How long do NiCd batteries last?

    i bought some GE ni-cad cells for two cb walkietalkies at woolworths back in 1972 or 1975. they are black with a red logo. had 20 originally, now i am down to 3-4 that still work. they were made in hong kong! guess i got my moneys worth.

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