Brand New Batteries? How “Fresh” Are They? How Old is the Battery Stock? Will They Work?

Buying a brand new battery? If so you may be inclined to ask about the age of the battery inventory at your battery supplier of choice! For that matter does the age of the battery really matter?

It is a good question to ask. A battery is a consumable product. Think about your favorite restaurant? Would you eat there if you knew that your salad of choice had ingredients that were 6 months old? Probably not! But with batteries is there such a thing as an old battery? The answer is yes!

You see batteries as a consumable have a shelf-life meaning that a battery will only last a certain amount of time before it is unusable. Now I am not speaking about a battery’s declining capacity. Declining capacity is a natural process of a battery use that once declining capacity begins the battery will degrade to the point of non-operability. Technically speaking declining capacity is when the amount of charge a battery can hold gradually decreases due to usage, aging, and with some chemistry, lack of maintenance. PDA batteries, for example, are specified to deliver about 100 percent capacity when new but after usage and aging and lack of conditioning a pda battery's capacity will drop. This is normal. If you are using a pda battery (or any lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery) when your battery's capacity reaches 60% to 70% the pda battery will need to be replaced. Standard industry practice will warranty a battery above 80%. Below 80% typically means you have used the practical life of a battery. Thus the threshold by which a battery can be returned under warranty is typically 80%.

But when I speak about the shelf-life of a battery I am speaking wholly of a battery that is new. Let me be very clear and define what a new battery is and is not! A new battery is NOT: a battery that was charged, connected to a device, been opened or chemically activated in any way. Now be very careful with any assumption you may have where a battery could still be considered new even after it was charged, connected to a device, been opened or chemically activated in any way. Why?

Inside the battery itself, is a chemical reaction that produces the electrons. The chemical reaction is designed for a single purpose: to create an electron flow (i.e. electricity) by which the device is powered. The electron flow is measured (or moves at speeds) in amperes, where 1 ampere is the flow of 62,000,000,000,000,000,000 electrons per second! Therefore once the chemical is activated and the flow of electrons takes place, even for a second, then the loss of power and battery degradation begins and there is no stopping it. Once battery degradation begins a battery is considered used and its natural life will deplete in a matter of time.

Now a new battery (a battery that was NEVER charged, connected to a device, been opened or chemically activated in any way can have a shelf-life up to 36 months (under certain conditions). My personal preference is to never buy a new battery that has been sitting on the shelf for more than 18 months. But again that is merely a personal preference. Batteries that are left in temperature extremes will not last as long and may degrade within a few weeks or less if the weather is really extreme. Brand new batteries that are less than 12 months old are your best choice as they represent your “freshest” battery type.


Until next time, Dan Hagopian
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