The move to decouple from electrical cords and outlets,starting in the 60′s,has mushroomed.Beginning with improvements in standard primary battery cells,batteries have gotten smaller,lighter,and much more powerful.Batteries during this time frame have also taken a quantum leap forward in reliability.Reliability in this context meaning not just the ability to insert,drain and replace a battery but removing a spent set of cells and having the device in the same condition as when inserted.
You’ve seen it that rusty,brown,toxic smelling liquid that corrodes anything it touches.This aspect was extremely costly as measured by replacement cost not only of the batteries but the entire device if not discovered in time.Primary cells,when fully discharged had to be replaced in total and consigned to your local landfill.The spent cells deteriorated over time and leached into the groundwater.Government regulators addressed this and these toxic materials were soon banned from landfills.Mandatory recycling programs were implemented to replace the landfill operations.
Primary cells when manufactured and discharged create an inordinate amount of waste and use a similar amount of resources.One cubic yard of single use batteries may hypothetically power one hundred radios for one hundred hours.The cells are heavy and bulky and,even subsequent to their manufacture,create a lot of pollution through transportation and handling,all the while using an ever dwindling supply of fossil fuel.Rechargeable lithium battery has taken a huge step forward in ameliorating many of the previously mentioned problems.Rechargeable batteries last an average of 500 cycles (charge and discharge).
Yes replacing primary batteries with rechargeable cells uses approximately 0.5% of the raw materials,0.5% of the logistical requirements with a corresponding reduction in waste and requires 0.5% of the resources needed to recycle the cells.Yes even recycling has an environmental impact albeit a tiny fraction of the “Throw and Go” mentality.Further refinements in the battery chemistry commonly used today vastly increased the run time while simultaneously reducing the weight.Batteries account for about half the weight of today’s cordless power tools so a 30% reduction in a battery’s weight equates to a 15% overall reduction in the entire tool.Starting with a tamper proof torx wrench and ending with new sub c cells and the final piece of insulating fish paper before the top half is replaced,all worn-out parts are replaced with new.
When rechargeable batteries were in their infancy most cells were and many still are similar in size,shape nomenclature to today’s AA,C and D cells,only rechargeable and in a stand alone charger.Today’s prepack cells are primarily 18650 battery or NiCd sub C. Neither of these cells are bought and sold at your local Radio Shack.Today’s prepacks have therefore taken a step backwards in recycling ease.They have gone from easily recycled individual cells to unitary packs comprised of many disparate materials (including PC boards for LIon) all having different recommended methods of recycling.This problem however has recently been addressed.There is presently available a universal prepack battery rebuild kit containing all new upgraded internals while reusing all the connections,shell etc.
This reduction may not be readily apparent to anyone who has not used a cordless tool in an overhead environment but that 15% can make a huge difference in productivity all the while reducing chances of workplace injury resulting from fatigue.Improvements in overall power output per pound of generating cell have been accompanied by a marked increase in the use of prepackaged cells,that is,Sub C battery cells pre-configured and welded together in a shape inherent to individual manufacturers design.Prepacks do not lend themselves to easy cell replacement as they are assembled using tamper proof screws (primarily #10 Torx) and the cells are connected using an industry specific side by side spot welder not readily available to anyone but manufacturers or dedicated rebuilders of prepacks.