What is a battery?

A battery is one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Since the invention of the first battery (or “voltaic pile”) in 1800 by Alessandro Volta, batteries have become a common power source for many household and industrial applications. According to a 2009 estimate, the worldwide battery industry generates  £32 billion in sales each year with 3% annual growth.
There are two types of batteries: primary batteries (disposable batteries), which are designed to be used once and discarded, and secondary batteries (rechargeable batteries), which are designed to be recharged and used multiple times. Batteries come in many sizes, from miniature cells used to power hearing aids and wristwatches to battery banks the size of rooms that provide standby power for telephone exchanges and computer data centres.

Inside the battery itself, a chemical reaction produces the electrons. The speed of electron production by this chemical reaction (the battery’s internal resistance) controls how many electrons can flow between the terminals. Electrons flow from the battery into a wire, and must travel from the negative to the positive terminal for the chemical reaction to take place. That is why a battery can sit on a shelf for a year and still have plenty of power — unless electrons are flowing from the negative to the positive terminal, the chemical reaction does not take place. Once you connect a wire, the reaction starts. The ability to harness this sort of reaction started with the voltaic pile.

History of Batteries

Benjamin Franklin first coined the term “battery” to describe an array of charged glass plates. 

1780 – 1786
Luigi Galvani demonstrated what we now understand to be the electrical basis of nerve impulses and provided the cornerstone of research for later inventors like Volta.

Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile and discovered the first practical method of generating electricity. Constructed of alternating discs of zinc and copper with pieces of cardboard soaked in brine between the metals, the voltic pile produced electrical current. The metallic conducting arc was used to carry the electricity over a greater distance. Alessandro Volta’s voltaic pile was the first “wet cell battery” that produced a reliable, steady current of electricity.

Englishman, John F. Daniel invented the Daniel Cell that used two electrolytes: copper sulphate and zinc sulphate. The Daniel Cell was somewhat safer and less corrosive then the Volta cell.

William Robert Grove developed the first fuel cell, which produced electrical by combining hydrogen and oxygen. Also Inventors created improvements to batteries that used liquid electrodes to produce electricity. Bunsen (1842) and Grove (1839) invented the most successful.

French inventor, Gaston Plante developed the first practical storage lead-acid battery that could be recharged (secondary battery). This type of battery is primarily used in cars today.

French engineer, Ge orges Leclanche patented the carbon-zinc wet cell battery called the Leclanche cell. According to the History of Batteries: “George Leclanche’s original cell was assembled in a porous pot. The positive electrode consisted of crushed manganese dioxide with a little carbon mixed in. The negative pole was a zinc rod. The cathode was packed into the pot, and a carbon rod was inserted to act as a currency collector. The anode or zinc rod and the pot were then immersed in an ammonium chloride solution. The liquid acted as the electrolyte, readily seeping through the porous cup and making contact with the cathode material. The liquid acted as the electrolyte, readily seeping through the porous cup and making contact with the cathode material.”

Twenty thousand of Georges Leclanche’s cells were now being used with telegraph equipment.

J.A. Thiebaut patented the first battery with both the negative electrode and porous pot placed in a zinc cup.

Carl Gassner invented the first commercially successful dry cell battery (zinc-carbon cell).

Waldmar Jungner invented the first nickel-cadmium rechargeable battery.

Thomas Alva Edison invented the alkaline storage battery.


The alkaline battery was developed in 1949 by Lew Urry at the Eveready Battery Company Laboratory in Parma, Ohio. Alkaline batteries could supply more total energy at higher currents than the Leclanché batteries. Further improvements since then have increased the energy storage within a given size package.

1954 Solar Cells

Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar. A solar battery converts the sun’s energy to electricity. In 1954, Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery. The inventors created an array of several strips of silicon (each about the size of a razorblade), placed them in sunlight, captured the free electrons and turned them into electrical current. Bell Laboratories in New York announced the prototype manufacture of a new solar battery. Bell had funded the research. The first public service trial of the Bell Solar Battery began with a telephone carrier system (Americus, Georgia) on October 4 1955.

Our Guide to Batteries

Duracell, Energizer, JCB, Alkaline are the most common type of household battery. They became popular in the 1970’s, as an alternative to Zinc carbon & Zinc Chloride batteries (e.g., “Heavy Duty” and “General Purpose” batteries). Alkaline have a lot of power and are inexpensive and they usually can’t be recharged.
Standard alkaline don’t work well in high-drain devices (like digital cameras), because they’re not good at pumping out lots of power quickly. They’ll still work, but your battery life will be short. However, most manufacturers have introduced special alkaline which work well in high drain devices, such as Duracell Ultra, Energizer Lithium and Panasonic Evolta and JCB OXI
There’s not much difference in capacity from brand to brand, as long as you’re comparing standard to standard, and high drain to high drain. Consumer Reports found that the spread between the best and worst alkaline was only 9-15% regardless of the brand.
Alkaline lose their voltage gradually — as opposed to rechargeable like NiMH which maintain most of their voltage over the whole charge and then suddenly plummet. 

Lithium AA
Lots of power – up to 3 to 7 times longer than alkaline
These are designed for very high-drain devices, like digital cameras, mp3 players, motorized toys, and portable CD players (in which they last for up to 10 years). They’re more efficient than standard alkaline for high-drain devices because they can supply the POWER much quicker. But they’re more expensive.
Lithium’s are useful in low-drain devices like smoke alarms — they last so long you can go for years without replacing the battery. When you go through only one battery every several years, you’re not as concerned that it can’t be recharged.
Don’t confuse AA Lithium’s with Lithium-Ion battery packs (like the kind that come with some cell phones and camcorders). Those Lithium-Ion packs ARE rechargeable, but only when they’re installed in the device they’re powering, or in a special recharger. Supreme offer this product in Both Energizer and JCB


By 2005 asked hundreds of consumers if they knew about rechargeable batteries and the reasons why they are still using disposable batteries. The major reason given by the consumers was that they were disappointed by the high self-discharge of rechargeable batteries.
“Whenever you need them they are empty and need to be recharged”, was a common reply.

This complaint about rechargeable batteries was reasonable, because at that time all manufacturers of rechargeable batteries focussed their development on higher and higher capacity, and nobody seemed to care about the self-discharge.
Compared to classic alkaline batteries which keep their charge for years, the available NiMH batteries had rather a high self discharge rate.

Sanyo were the first company to take on board this criticism from the consumers and developed a rechargeable battery with very low self-discharge: eneloop.
While conventional NiMH Batteries suffer from substantial self-discharge, eneloop batteries have a drastically reduced self-discharge.

Ready to use is a most easy to use kind of rechargeable battery, like a disposable battery.
Because they has a very low self-discharge, we can ship the batteries to the retailers in a pre-charged state.
Also in the shops it loses its charge very slowly, which means the consumer purchases a charged battery that can be used immediately.

Therefore as user-friendly as a disposable battery with fantastic power

Zinc Carbon & Zinc Chloride
You know that’s what they are because they’re NOT labelled “alkaline”
They usually say “General Purpose”, or “Heavy Duty”. They were the battery type of choice in the 70’s, before Alkaline were available.
Even recently they were still popular because they used to be a lot cheaper than Alkaline and are great for low drainage items like TV remotes, clocks and any low drainage device.

Nickel-zinc battery 1.6V Rechargeable AA (the most powerful AA on the market)
Nickel-zinc cells have an open circuit voltage of 1.8 volts when fully charged [7] and a nominal voltage of 1.65V. This makes NiZn an excellent replacement for electronic products that were designed to use alkaline cells (1.5V). NiCad and NiMH both have nominal cell voltages of 1.2V, which may cause some electronic equipment to shut off prior to a complete discharge of the battery because the minimal operating voltage is not provided.
Due to their higher voltage, fewer cells are required (compared to NiCad and NiMH) to achieve a given battery-pack voltage, reducing pack weight, size and improving pack reliability. They also have low internal impedance (typically 5 milliohms) which allows for high battery discharge rates.
NiZn batteries do not use mercury, lead or cadmium, or metal hydrides that are difficult to recycle.[8] Both nickel and zinc are commonly occurring elements in nature. Zinc and nickel can be fully recycled.
NiZn cells use no flammable active material or organic electrolyte.
Properly designed NiZn cells can have very high power density and low temperature discharging performance.

Recycling & The Environment

New battery directive

Europe has finally published the new Batteries Directive, making companies that produce and sell new batteries responsible for collecting and recycling spent batteries.
The publication in the EU’s Official Journal on Tuesday came without a trace of publicity from the European Union, but means the UK now has exactly 24 months to bring in new recycling regulations for batteries.

The first collection targets set by the Directive for 25% of batteries, will now have to be achieved by September 26, 2012.
The second target, for 45% of batteries, is set for September 2016.
Figures for 2002 put Britain’s collection rate for batteries at just 0.5%. This compared to 59% for Belgium and 55% for Sweden.
The new Directive requires accessible recycling points will have to be set up, with distributors taking spent batteries back for recycling free of charge to the last owner.
A series of “efficiency” targets has also been set for the reprocessing of the materials from collected batteries. These include recycling 65% of lead-acid batteries, 75% of nickel-cadmium batteries and 50% of other batteries collected, all targets calculated by weight.
These efficiencies targets are to be achieved no later than September 26, 2010.

Any net costs from the collection, treatment and recycling of spent batteries is to be met by producers or organisations on their behalf. The Directive does allow Member States to bring in a threshold to allow small battery producers to escape the recycling obligations.
The Directive also bans producers from using significant quantities of hazardous metals like cadmium and mercury in the manufacture of batteries – except in medical equipment, emergency or alarm systems, and in cordless power drills.

Who’s Affected
The Waste Batteries and Accumulators Regulations 2009, which came into force on 5 May 2009, place obligations on battery ‘producers’ – businesses that place portable, industrial and automotive batteries onto the UK market for the first time. Portable batteries are defined as both cells and those batteries that are integral to some types of electrical equipment such as cordless tools, toys, mobile phones or laptop computers. To find out if you will be obligated under the regulations please download a copy of Valpak’s batteries decision tree.
You are affected by the regulations if you:
•    manufacture or import batteries
•    manufacture or import electrical equipment which includes batteries
•    are a retailer supplying batteries to end users 

Producers who place more than 1 tonne of portable batteries onto the UK market each year must:
•    register with a compliance scheme who must provide consumer collection and recycling information on behalf of their
•    provide quarterly sales data by weight and chemistry category
•    finance the recovery of a target percentage of their battery sales
Producers who place 1 tonne or less of portable batteries onto the UK market each year must register with the relevant Environment Agency and provide an annual data submission to that Agency. Please refer to for further information.
Retailers selling more than 32kg of portable batteries per year must provide free in-store take back of waste portable batteries.

A distributor is classed as someone selling batteries on a professional basis to an end-user. In the UK these are usually retailers but it also includes distance sellers (e.g. internet), commercial distributors and wholesalers supplying users direct. Distributors of batteries (i.e. replacement batteries) to end-users must offer to take-back waste batteries. These should be free of charge to the public. There should be no requirement on the public to make a purchase from the distributor in order to utilise the battery collection facility. In addition, distributors may be required to advise end-users of appropriate end of life management options for portable batteries and accumulators.
Exemptions are proposed for small distributors who meet both of the following criterions:
•    sell 32kg or less of replacement batteries per year or
•    sell batteries only when incorporated into appliances
Distributors who only sell batteries incorporated into appliances will be exempt.
Compliance schemes will make arrangements with distributors to pick up and recycle their collected batteries. The collection and recycling will be funded by producers via their schemes and as such will be free of charge to distributors.
Small distributors under the threshold will not be required to take back waste batteries, but may still choose to offer this service. In this case they may have to do so at their own cost unless an agreement can be reached with a scheme.

The policy of Supreme Imports is to contribute to customers worldwide with our products, with our high-quality
•    Try and Establish environmental management systems and pursue environmental preservation activities.
•    Understand the impact that company activities have on the world environment and pursue environmental preservation activities
•    Persue external auditing of our operation
•    Where applicable help to take action for resource and energy conservation, recycling and waste reduction.
•    By offering environmental education and r their awareness about environmental preservation.

Market Information on Batteries

  • The UK retail battery market is large, with Mintel estimating volumes in 2007 at 669.2 million units with a retail sales value of £416.8 million.
  • Yet the market is also relatively mature and the onset of multi-packs and discounting has caused retail sales to fall back in recent years.
  • Prices are a clear example of the impact of competition. Mintel calculated average cell prices in 2003 at 67p, compared with 62p in 2007 and 2008.
  • Volumes are under pressure although it’s a combination of factors that are dragging down the market – in particular the growth of built-in rechargeable batteries with many modern electrical devices, from toothbrushes to iPods.
  • One of the key developments within the battery market is the rise in rechargeable cells. These are becoming more popular as NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) chemistry has made rechargeable an easier option for consumers to select.
  • The continued development of primary cell technology, driven by more power-hungry devices such as digital cameras. The result is a new range of cells based on technologies such as lithium.
  • Specialist batteries remain important as new appliances requiring them are developed. For example, products aimed at older adults and the home healthcare sector continue to provide opportunities.
  • Of note is the move towards smaller batteries within the standard battery market. Whereas AA remain the most popular cell overall, smaller AAA cells are growing their share of sales as smaller appliances increasingly demand smaller cells.
  • Digital technology offers useful opportunities
  • Batteries have a place in a wide variety of consumer products, with Mintel’s consumer research putting remote controls as the most popular device.
  • In recent years the arrival of high drain items such as music and media players along with cameras has placed new demands on manufacturers.
  • Digital cameras have grown into a market in their own right, helping stimulate the rechargeable and high-performance primary cell market.
  • Media players have also impacted, although these are increasingly being produced with in-built rechargeable cells.

Market Share
The UK battery market is dominated by a small number of manufacturers with Duracell, Panasonic and Energizer the most notable.

  • Smaller manufacturers have largely been unable to establish themselves in the consumer market because of competitive rivalry and the importance of distribution agreements with major retailers.
  • As a result, those on the margins of the market typically specialise in dealing with particular customers/appliances or offering specific battery technology such as rechargeable or button cells.
  • A notable development within the market in recent years has been the growing profile of own-label batteries, sales of which are particularly benefiting from changing shopping habits.

Advertising is dominated by mass-market channels

Promotional spend is relatively low as a share of sales, hinting at the already strong brand awareness amongst consumers, or the use of other methods such as in-store promotion.

  • Television dominates advertising revenues, although overall advertising spend is down.
  • Because of the distress nature of much consumer expenditure, advertising is concentrated in the run-up to Christmas when the purchase of games and digital technology is greatest.

Consumers have specific demands but also appear confused

  • Consumer use of batteries appears relatively stable despite the arrival of new appliances that require batteries over the past decade.
  • Expenditure has, however, fallen back, reflecting price competition and the multi-pack activities of manufacturers.
  • Consumers cite suitability for an appliance, brand name and price as the three factors they most seek out when purchasing batteries.
  • However considerable confusion is evident especially on which battery is most appropriate and on the use of rechargeable batteries.
  • Mintel has identified three groups of individuals that exist within the battery market: Price Persuaded; Brand Influenced; and Battery Bygones.

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