Difference between Alkaline and Lithium Batteries

Key difference: Alkaline batteries are dependent upon the reaction between zinc and manganese dioxide, whereas lithium batteries uses lithium metal or lithium compounds as anodes.

Batteries are a basic house staple. Every household has small or portable devices that require batteries. These may include alarm clocks, remote controllers, toys, flashlights, digital cameras, etc. The batteries used in these kinds of devices can be distributed into two categories: single-use and rechargeable. The single-use batteries, which are also known as primary batteries, have one life cycle and must be replaced when drained. These kinds of batteries include the most commonly used batteries: alkaline and lithium.

Alkaline and lithium batteries differ in the method by which they generate electricity. They both produce electricity through a chemical reaction but use different ingredients.  Alkaline battery is an electrochemical cell which uses a chemical reaction between its anode and cathode. The anode is the negative electrode which is the case of alkaline batteries is made up of zinc powder. The cathode, which is the positive terminal, is made of manganese dioxide. The electrolyte is potassium hydroxide. Alkaline batteries are dependent upon the reaction between zinc and manganese dioxide, whereas lithium batteries uses lithium metal or lithium compounds as anodes.

The alkaline battery usually produces a voltage of 1.5 V each, which can be increased by having a series of batteries. The lithium battery produces a voltage of 1.75 V or more. The different sizes of the battery, for example, AA, AAA, and 9V, tend to have varying voltages and currents.

Both, alkaline and lithium batteries are not rechargeable, and any attempts to recharge them may be disastrous. An advantage of lithium batteries is that they tend to last longer than alkaline batteries. However, they also tend to cost more than alkaline batteries. Also, lithium batteries are toxic, due to the lithium compounds, which is why they should be handled and disposed with care.

A detailed comparison between Alkaline and Lithium batteries:


Alkaline Batteries

Lithium Batteries

Generation of power

Reaction between zinc and manganese dioxide.

lithium metal or compounds


AA, AAA, 9 volt

coin-shaped cell batteries, AA, AAA, 9 volt


Less expensive

More expensive


operate at 1.5 volts

operate at 1.75 volts


Shorter life

Longer life, lithium battery will have three to five times more useful life than an alkaline battery.


Low temperatures slow down the chemical reactions in the battery.

Lithium batteries hold up better in cold temperatures, can be used outside

Shelf life

Shorter, loses 1-5% of their battery life per day.

Longer, can be stored for months. Can discharge rapidly if short circuits.


May explode if attempted to recharge.

Will short circuit and leak, can result in overheating of the battery, rupture, and even explosion.



Low-drain, low-use, non crucial devices:

Toys, remote controls, flashlights, portable radios, etc.

High-drain, high-use, crucial devices: smoke alarms, clocks, video equipment and digital cameras, answering machines, calculators, etc.


Contain no toxic materials; can be disposed in landfills and not pose a threat to the environment.

Contain toxic materials; need to be disposed at special locations instead of in landfills.

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1.5% per day?! That's a load of BS. Alkaline batteries lose 2-3 % per year!

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