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  • stevecowles

Do rechargeable batteries still have a role?

I’m old enough to remember the days when almost all portable devices used replaceable batteries, we spent a lot of time and money replacing these on a regular basis (it seemed like most days with my bike lights as a kid). I also recall the emergence of rechargeable batteries; basically, we looked at them with awe as if they were some form of witchcraft.

Time has moved on and these days we have built-in rechargeable batteries even in very expensive devices and we replace the entire device when they finally fail (is this really progress?). So, do replaceable rechargeable batteries still have a role to play?

I only have a few devices left that use removable batteries, remote controls, some bike lights, beard trimmer, wireless mouse and keyboard etc. I use rechargeables in these and have found no measurable difference in the performance or lifetime as a consequence.

I have a small box with a few ready charged batteries in it and have totally stopped buying single-use ones (years ago).

However, I have found a number of advantages:

  • The lifetime cost of ownership is significantly cheaper, even with a slightly higher purchase price and the need to buy a charger. To put this into perspective I recently bought 12 AAA rechargeable batteries from Amazon for a tenner and they perform well and if I’d needed a charger I could have got one for about £13.

  • In some cases it means I can just take some spare batteries with me rather than a whole device (bike lights being a good example), this is both easier and cheaper from a device perspective.

  • rechargeables have 28 times less impact on global warming, 30 times less impact on air pollution, 9 times less impact on air acidification and 12 times less impact on water pollution (source:

  • No need to go shopping just for batteries.

  • No Christmas day rush to the petrol station when the toys came with no batteries.

  • As with single-use, they can be recycled at the end of their useful life.

I have heard arguments that there are only so many recharge cycles and this is true but, as ‘so many’ sits in the hundreds or even thousands, it is also of no relevance. In fact, it seems difficult to find any counter-arguments.

As to the issue of devices with non-replaceable batteries; personally, I’d outlaw this practice and do hope that the EU right to repair legislation achieves this, the battery packs should be replaceable at the end of their life. I also believe that there may be a good case for outlawing the sale of non-rechargeable batteries in some common sizes, particularly AA and AAA but some may see this as a bridge too far.

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