Nickel-metal hydride vs lithium-ion in hybrid cars

In the past decade, hybrid cars have become significantly more popular both in the US and in the rest of the world. According to a few polls, more than 53% of current drivers are keen on the idea of buying a hybrid or an EV as their next car. As such, it’s important to know which type of hybrid car to go for.

The discussion between conventional hybrids and plug-in hybrids is as relevant as ever, but the discussion between nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion battery hybrids is arguably even more important. Even though most companies are moving towards using lithium-ion batteries exclusively, some are still fond of both.

However, it is true that lithium-ion batteries do hold a greater set of advantages over nickel-metal hydride batteries because they are lighter and more power-dense. On the other hand, NiMH batteries are known to fare a bit better when it comes to harsh environments like cold weather while also being cheaper.

Li-Ion batteries represent the next step when compared to NiMH batteries which means that they are likely to increase in production while NiMH battery hybrids are decreasing at a steady rate. Even so, be sure to read this article to find out which one of these two is better and why.

NiMH – Nickel-metal hydride batteries – Pros and Cons

NiMH batteries have been around for a long time which makes them interchangeable between several different devices. This means that a single battery pack can technically power multiple different devices easily. They hold less energy per single cell which makes them safer and less vulnerable to harsh temperature changes.

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They are considerably cheaper when compared to Li-Ion batteries and have more charge cycles. An average NiMH battery is good for around 500 to 2000 cycles which makes it usable for up to 5 years on average, but this can vary depending on lots of external factors.

However, they have a limited discharge current which makes them not as potent while having a high self-discharge rate. More specifically, self-discharge is a battery phenomenon in which batteries lose charge even when not connected to anything. An average NiMH battery can lose as much as 70% of charge if given enough time.

Potentially the greatest drawback of NiMH batteries is that they considerably more time to recharge which makes them unusable for devices such as smartphones. Given the fact that most automakers are now racing to provide fast charging times, it’s considerably better to opt for Li-Ion batteries.

Li-Ion – Lithium-Ion batteries – Pros and Cons

Li-Ion batteries are more sophisticated and more energy-dense when compared to NiMH batteries which means that they hold more energy per single cell. That’s why they are used in a myriad of different gadgets including smartphones.

They can recharge at a rate that is as much as 5 times faster when compared to NiMH batteries. This is essential for modern-day hybrids because the range and the recharge time are the two greatest gripes with hybrids in general.

They also offer better self-discharge properties which makes them better for hybrids that are not used all the time. They are smaller and lighter than NiMH batteries which also makes them superior as far as packaging is concerned, especially considering that hybrid vehicles weigh a lot more than a regular ICE car which impacts both agility and efficiency.

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However, Li-Ion batteries are still considerably more expensive even though the prices are dropping as time goes on. They are more fragile and more vulnerable to harsh temperatures. Finally, they cant be depleted completely because that could cause a lot of issues to the battery.

Best battery choice for current and upcoming hybrid vehicles

It is rather clear that the Li-Ion battery is an overall better choice when it comes to hybrid vehicles because these batteries are more energy-dense, are lighter, and can be recharged considerably faster. However, this does not mean that completely discontinuing NiMH batteries is a good idea.

That’s why Toyota still uses NiMH batteries for some of their models because they are cheaper and it gives them more flexibility if something goes wrong with Lithium supply chains. As such, it’s best to rely on both battery technologies depending on what the specific product needs to offer.

However, when we put NiMH batteries against Lithium-Ion batteries in a head-to-head battle, Li-Ion batteries are clearly the superior choice for 90% of hybrid cars out there.

FAQ Section

Why don’t hybrid manufacturers use lead-acid batteries?

Lead-acid batteries are also a fairly popular battery technology that has been around for decades. They are also cheap to manufacture, hold large current capacity, can be interchangeable between all sorts of devices, and are extremely tolerant to abuse of all sorts.

However, they are even worse when it comes to the weight-to-power ratio which makes them useless for modern-day hybrids. They take way too long to recharge no matter how powerful the charger is. The recharge cycle is extremely limited while the charging process itself requires a specific environment to prevent sulfation.

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Why do people want hybrid vehicles?

Hybrid cars represent the modern-day eco-friendly philosophy that’s becoming increasingly more relevant due to climate change. Governments around the world are keen on offering all sorts of tax cuts and incentives if you opt for a hybrid car.

Some applications such as bulk company lease enable you to save large amounts of money on tax cuts if you opt for a hybrid fleet. Furthermore, hybrids are indeed more efficient if you are able to completely utilize the hybrid platform.

Are hybrids better than EVs?

A modern-day plug-in hybrid is a stepping stone between a traditional ICE car and a full-on EV which makes it a perfect choice for those who are considering to transition towards EVs but are not yet ready to make the transition.

EVs are the most advanced and most eco-friendly option out of all cars on the market, but the issues with charging times, charging infrastructure, and potential range are still way too problematic for EV mass application. EVs are indeed better than plug-in hybrids, but only if you have the access to reliable charging infrastructure.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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