Chances are the battery in your cell phone, tablet, or laptop is a lithium-ion battery. But we also use them in medical equipment, electric vehicles, and power tools. Lithium-ion battery packs are more stable, lightweight, and smaller than other comparable battery types, but how long do they last?
Lithium-ion batteries have a shelf life of 3-6 years. Loss of battery life, also known as self-discharge, occurs at a rate of between .5% to 2% per month. To minimize the loss of charge, store lithium-ion batteries in a cool, temperature-controlled place away from other batteries or metal objects.
Now, let’s dive further into optimizing the shelf-life of lithium-ion batteries.
How Do You Store Lithium-ion Batteries Safely?
Before we talk about storing lithium-ion batteries, let’s examine some terminology regarding longevity.
- Shelf life refers to how long the battery will hold a charge while literally sitting on a shelf. For a rechargeable battery, shelf life refers to how long it can sit before you charge it.
- Cycle life refers to how many complete charges and discharges a rechargeable battery can take before it no longer holds a charge.
Lithium-ion batteries self-discharge or lose their charge over time, even when not in use. Self-discharge is the rate at which the battery loses its charge while sitting idle. Typical self-discharge is about 5% over the first 24 hours and then 0.5-2% per month after that.
To maximize the shelf life of lithium-ion batteries, it is best to store them in a cool, temperature-controlled place, away from other batteries or metal objects. Batteries used for high-demand items can expect a shelf life of approximately 3 years, while batteries for less-used items might last up to 6 years.
How Do You Extend the Life of a Lithium-Ion Battery?
Lithium-ion batteries dislike heat. If you’ve ever left your laptop in a hot car and then had trouble getting it to boot, that was a safety feature. It needs to cool off before powering up.
Is Cold Bad for Lithium-Ion Batteries?
Save for extreme cold, quite the opposite is true. When you need to store a lithium-ion battery, it is best to choose a cool place. The best temperature is a range from above freezing to room temperature (0 to 21C / 32 to 70F).
Pro Tip: The refrigerator is probably the best place to store batteries if your goal is to maximize their shelf-life. The recoverable capacity for a lithium-ion battery stored for a year in a temp of 0 to 25C (32-74F) is 80-94%. That a loss of just 6%. So, your battery may be fine sitting somewhere in the back of your fridge. Just make sure it’s in a sealed bag to prevent any moisture leaks that will rust the battery.
What Happens if You Freeze a Lithium-Ion Battery?
Placing your battery in the freezer is not an option. The extreme cold can adversely affect the components in the battery.
When Do Batteries Expire?
Like many products, manufacturers base the expiration date on when they can no longer guarantee the product is at its best. For a lithium-ion battery, that means when the battery’s total self-discharge will exceed 20%. As already said, that should be approximately 6% a year for a good battery.
Lithium-ion batteries are relatively expensive because of the other components needed to manage it. A battery pack for a “protected” cell includes a voltage converter, voltage tap, a regulator circuit, connector, battery charge monitor, and temperature sensors. With this little computer-within-a-computer, it makes sense to extend your battery’s life for as long as possible.
The lithium-ion battery favors a partial discharge. In fact, letting the battery discharge 100% will ruin it. Unlike manufacturers’ cautions from the past, lithium-ion companies recommend a cycle of charges for optimum use. To lose the least amount of self-discharge, store your battery with a partial charge between 30% to 50%.
Bottom Line: There’s no point in trying to “save” your lithium-ion battery by letting it sit unused. It won’t last. This is also an excellent reason to check the manufacture date on a “new” lithium-ion battery. If it’s been sitting on the store shelf for a year, it’s time with you is limited. Typically, you can find an expiration date listed on the packaging.
Pros and Cons of Lithium-Ion Batteries
Developed in the 1970s, the first lithium cell batteries were expensive and unstable. By the 1990s, researchers shifted to lithium components, rather than lithium metals, to create a lighter, rechargeable battery.
Today, the lithium-ion battery powers a wide variety of portable electronics, office equipment, cordless tools, electric cars, marine appliances, and personal mobility items. They have a high capacity and are excellent in high-drain devices, but they are sensitive to overcharge and overheating.
- They hold their charge better than nickel and acid batteries
- They recharge at less than 100%
- They excel with charge/discharge cycles
- They degrade immediately after manufacture
- They are sensitive to high temperature
- They are ruined if discharged to 100%
If your lithium-ion battery is in your laptop, tablet, or cell phone, it’s not likely that you must store it for any length of time. However, if you use lithium-ion batteries in your high-powered cordless power tools, follow this storage advice.
Since those batteries may sit for months between your DIY projects, it makes sense to store them properly in a cool place in your garage or basement and get the best bang for your buck.
I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for reading!
For more, check out Is It Safe to Throw Away Batteries?
Hey, I’m Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!