Comparing Portable Two-Way Radio Battery Chemistries

There are 4 main types of battery chemistries, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal hydride, lithium-ion, and lithium polymer. Batteries are manufactured with chemistries that determine how well a battery is going to perform and for how long.

Like everything, battery chemistries have their own advantages and disadvantages with how they will work for you.

In this blog, we're going to discuss those differences between each chemistry so you are able to select the right battery for your communication needs.

Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd)

Nickel Cadmium, Ni-Cd, is the best battery for performing in extreme hot and cold temperatures. It has a great shelf life which means when you do not use the battery for a significant amount of time, it will still perform at a high level.

Find the advantages and disadvantages of Nickel Cadmium below:


  • Available in various sizes and performance options.
  • Very forgiving if abused.
  • The high number of charge and discharge cycles. If properly maintained, it provides over 1,000 charge and discharge cycles.


  • Relatively low energy density compared to newer systems
  • Environmentally unfriendly contains toxic metals. Limited in some countries.
  • Has relatively high self-discharge meaning it needs to be recharged after being stored.


Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)

A Nickel Metal Hydride battery is the next step up from nickel-cadmium considering it has 30% to 40% more capacity than Ni-Cd. 

Below are the advantages and disadvantages of Nickel Metal-Hydride:


  • Simple storage and transportation
  • Environmentally friendly, only contains mild toxins (Great for recycling)


  • Approximately 20% more expensive than Ni-Cd because Nickel Metal-Hydride batteries are designed for high draw, which is more expensive than the regular version.
  •  Limited service life. If repeatedly deep cycled, performance deteriorates after 200-300 cycles. Shallow discharge cycles are preferred for batteries
  • High maintenance – batteries require a full discharge to prevent crystalline formation.


Lithium-Ion (Li+)

Lithium-Ion batteries are lighter and provide higher capacity for longer run times.

Lithium-based chemistry batteries are ideal for personnel that requires extended battery life this includes, Casino Security, investigative task forces, and elite military forces.

Find the advantages and disadvantages of Lithium Ion below,


  • High energy density with the potential for higher capacities
  • Relatively low self-discharge. The self-discharge is less than half of Ni-Cd and Ni-MH.
  • Low Maintenance. There is no periodic discharge needed due to no memory effect.


  • Requires circuit protection. Circuit protection limits the voltage and current. The battery is safe if it is not irritated.
  • Subject to aging, even if not in use. It is suggested to store the Li-Ion battery in a cool place at a 40% charge to reduce its aging effect.
  • Expensive to manufacture. Greater than 40% in cost to manufacture compared to Ni-Cd.


Lithium Polymer (Li-Po)

Lastly, Lithium Polymer batteries acquire the highest capacity. Li-Po batteries do not have a memory effect which means you'll get the most use out of your battery no matter how you charge it. Memory effect can happen when you repeatedly charge a battery before completely depleting it causing the battery to "memorize" that charge cycle resulting in a decreased run time and life cycle the next time you use it.

Lithium Polymer batteries are used mostly in law enforcement two-way radios. This is because the batteries last longer for their extensively long shifts.

Lithium Polymer batteries power today's cell phones and are becoming increasingly popular among drones. Lithium-Polymer batteries have had the ability to discharge quickly, delivering relatively high power for a short time period.

Find the advantages and disadvantages of Lithium Polymer batteries below:


  • Flexible form factor. Manufacturers are not bound by standard cell formats. With the high volume, any reasonable size can be produced economically.
  • Lightweight because it eliminates a metal shell. It is 20% lighter than the Li-Ion battery.
  • Improved safety. More resistant to overcharge, less chance for electrolyte leakage.


  • Lower energy density and decreased cycle count versus the Lithium-Ion battery.
  • Expensive to manufacture once this battery becomes mass-produced. The Lithium polymer battery has the potential for lower costs. It reduces control circuits offsets higher manufacturing costs.


Intrinsically Safe

Aside from chemistries, batteries can be manufactured as Intrinsically Safe (IS). Intrinsically Safe batteries are required when using electronic or electrical equipment in a hazardous environment with flammable gases or dust. Intrinsically Safe batteries do not allow the generation of heat or a spark that may cause an explosion or ignite flammable atmospheres.

To be classified as Intrinsically Safe, many batteries, like those for two-way radios, go through rigorous testing to make sure they are able to hold in any environment. When shopping for Intrinsically Safe, look for batteries certified by laboratories like FM approvals, MET Labs, SGS Labs, and UL.

IS batteries are used by firefighters, miners, and oil refineries because they are often working in environments where the risk of fire and explosion is high. Using IS batteries help minimize liability and maximize safety for the personnel working in dangerous areas and limits the potential of explosions and fires.

Check Out Batteries for Your Two-Way Radio


Looking for batteries with the chemistries listed above for your two-way radio? Waveband Communications has batteries with Ni-Cd, Li-Po, Li-Ion, and Ni-Mh for your Motorola, Kenwood, BK Technologies, ICOM, and Harris radios. 

Still not sure what you need? Contact us via live chat, phone at 800-806-1076, or email at

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