2 Reasons Why Lithium AA Batteries Are Better Than Alkaline

I use AA lithium batteries for devices operating in cold weather, and for devices where much more capacity under moderate to heavy load is preferred.

Their performance characteristics are outstanding under load. So I use them in devices which demand good performance under higher loads.

I mention ” AA ” size in the title. However the advantages are the same regardless of its form factor. Lithium versus Alkaline. Lithium wins.

Yes, lithium AA batteries cost more than regular alkaline batteries. So I don’t use them for everything. I have found an excellent AA battery for everything else. It’s the Energizer Max. Best of all, they don’t leak (Lithium batteries don’t leak either).

[ Read: AA Batteries That Won’t Leak ]

Energizer Lithium AA Battery Capacity

The Energizer (Ultimate Lithium L91) AA battery holds approximately 3500 maH of energy.

The Energizer Max (E91 Alkaline) AA battery holds about 3000 maH of energy.

The initial capacity of the lithium AA is a bit more. However look at how well it performs while discharging (under load)… WAY BETTER than the alkaline battery.

You can put a heavy load on the lithium battery, say 800 mA. The capacity as such remains close to 3500 maH. In contrast, the AA alkaline battery will only present an effective capacity of ~1000 maH under that heavy load. Huge difference!

Energizer AA Lithium Battery Capacity

(chart source – data sheet)

Voltage of Lithium AA Battery

Both batteries have a nominal voltage of 1.5 volts. However the lithium chemistry performs much, much better under load.

Note the apparent open-circuit (no load) voltage of the AA lithium. It’s ~ 1.7 volts. HOWEVER, before you get all worried about that (being more than 1.5 volts)… As soon as the load goes above just a few milliamps, say 10 mA, voltage settles in at 1.5 volts. Most all devices draw at least that!

However, “if” your device specifically restricts the use of lithium chemistry, well, use the Energizer Max instead.

Take a look at this chart which shows the Energizer lithium L91 (AA size) battery voltage discharge profile. As you can see, the voltage is higher than 1.5 under a near-zero load. However when it’s placed under load, the voltage comes in at ~ 1.5 volts.

Energizer Lithium Battery L91 (AA form factor) Voltage Discharge Profile

Energizer AA Lithium battery voltage

Energizer Lithium L91 (AA) Battery Temperature Performance

Best of all, cold weather performance is outstanding. A lithium AA-battery will perform substantially better than an alkaline battery when it’s cold.

Look at the chart. An alkaline battery will perform pretty well until it gets cold. The differences between cold weather tolerant lithium batteries and alkaline become very, very obvious while under heavy loads.

Either way, lithium wins.

Lithium AA battery better than alkaline in cold weather

(chart source) (I added degrees-F)

To sum it up, I really like the Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery for many of my demanding applications. I also really like the Energizer Max alkaline battery for normal applications. (But I also utilize rechargeable batteries, but that’s another articled…)

I hope that the charts above will help some of you understand the advantages of lithium battery chemistry, particularly for the consumer size AA battery.

>> Energizer Ultimate Lithium Batteries
(view on amzn)

>> Energizer Max AA Batteries

By the way, some of the primary (lithium battery) uses for my own “devices” include my driveway & road alarms, other outdoor sensors, the chicken coop automatic door opener, and a few of my tactical style flashlights. There’s probably more, but that’s off the top of my head…

[ Read: Best AA Rechargeable Batteries – The Eneloop – Why I Like Them ]

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19 Comments

  1. How do they perform when the temps are cold? They will not charge very well in cold temps. I have cordless tools that will not work in cold temps. The batteries in my drone act the same way in cold temps. Either perform poorly or will not charge unless they are warmed up. This is my own experience. Any one else have this happen?
    Also have heard that they have to be kept warm for solar set ups.
    I only brought this up, because of this cold spell most of us are going through.

  2. I appreciate this article and information but it would be helpful to some of us to have examples of what some “devices” and “everything else” are.

    1. JulietSierra,
      Some of the primary (lithium battery) uses for my own “devices” include my driveway & road alarms, other outdoor sensors, the chicken coop automatic door opener, and a few of my tactical style flashlights. There’s probably more, but that’s off the top of my head…

  3. The cost of the Lithium batteries is quite a bit more than the Alkaline batteries.
    I find the Ray-O-Vac batteries are equal to Duracell but cheaper….

    1. My $50 flashlights use Lithium ion 18650’s and 26650’s and couldn’t hold a Ray-O-Vac.

  4. Many electronic devices do not need a battery that costs 250% the cost of a lithium battery that gets 17% more life. High power flashlights quite often use lithium ion rechargeable batteries. The clock on my wall can easily work with alkaline battery and so can the burglar sensors in my living room as well as low to medium current drawing devices. Same with a smoke alarm. When I step up from an alkaline battery to lithium, it’s often lithium ion 1.2- 1.4 volt rechargeables from Eneloop.

    1. But would you use a cheap alkaline in a $3000 pair of NVG? I think not. You clearly have missed the whole point of the article. I think Ken’s point is he uses lithium in critical devices that he does not want damaged by a leaking alkaline battery. All alkaline batteries will leak eventually if exposed to constant temperature swings.

      1. To answer your question, no I would not put an alkaline battery in night vision, nor did I suggest one ought to. And if you think I missed the point all I can say is maybe you missed my point also.

  5. Good article. I keep a few batteries in all my go bags. I was told that lithium batteries explode. I have seen many videos of people with lithium batteries in their phone just exploded in their pocket.

    1. Please don’t mistake lithium batteries described in this article (these are NOT rechargeable, they are like regular alkaline batteries, only much better) with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in phones and other devices that are recharged. These are two different technologies.

  6. I gave up on DURACELL batteries about 5 years ago!!! They were the best before then. They must have changed their makeup some how and they started to leak. DURACELL ruined many radios and flashlights etc that I had installed them into. NEVER MORE…DURACELL and now I just use ENERGIZER BATTERIES NONE OF THEM EVER LEAK IN MY EXPERIENCE!!!👍

    1. @mountaingator001,
      You are so right! Duracell used to be great batteries many years ago! They definitely changed something.

      Even though I switched to Energizer many years ago, and I thought I had swapped out everything possible around here… Just the other day I found yet another set of Duracell’s installed in a device that I had not used in a very long time. Guess what? The battery compartment was all corroded because the dang Duracell’s leaked! Ughh…

  7. Critic usually, but for camera equipment or expensive emergency torchlights in boats and several out buildings (in cold climates) , at least double time length of use, plus if items have sat a year outside like rescue snowmobiles, 4×6 heavy snow truck, ultimate lithium by energizer are completely the best, sometimes triple and more the performance of other alkaline batteries even the max,,,,, just no comparison, worth whatever price they want to charge because the work in an emergency.

    1. edit ,,excuse informal typo, I’m on this silly toy mobile carnival freebie junk yahoo vrzn network phone. My correction:::::::

      [ T H E Y work in an emergency ]

  8. I have had energizer alkaline leak in about 10 different things in the last year!!! Had Copper tops leak in about 2, so I am going away from alkaline’s period!

  9. This is a very well written article, right to the point and easy to understand.
    It does not have 100 different ways to look at the 2 Reasons Why Lithium AA Batteries Are Better Than Alkaline.
    Thank You.

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