What’s the real difference between rechargeable batteries and regular ones?

This is another one of those things you think about in the summer when you’ve already dug through your DVR’s playlist and your streaming queue. (In fact, chances are, you got here by doing a Google search.) You can get regular batteries, and you can get rechargeable batteries. But why aren’t all batteries rechargeable? After all, they were chargeable once, right? They don’t just fall from the sky fully charged, right?

It’s true, all batteries are designed to take a charge. And if you want to know the dirty little secret… almost all batteries could actually be recharged under the right circumstances. So why aren’t they all sold as rechargeable?

The real difference between a regular alkaline battery and a rechargeable one is that the rechargeable one is made to be recharged. Recharging a battery puts a lot of stress on it, as the energy flows into the chemicals inside the battery. If you were to try to recharge your garden-variety Duracell, it would probably pop. It’s not physically strong enough to deal with the chemical reactions taking place inside it. Sure, the first time it was charged it made it ok, because it was in a factory where it was being very carefully babied. But in a home charger, it probably won’t make it.

On the other hand, the physical structure of a rechargeable battery will hold up to the stress quite well, and the chemical design of a rechargeable battery makes those stresses lower. So it becomes completely safe to recharge your battery.

Here’s a little secret most of you won’t know or didn’t remember… in the 1980s there were devices that let you recharge regular batteries. They were super-slow, often taking three days to charge up a battery, and the recharged batteries usually didn’t do well in them. They weren’t worth the money and that’s why they aren’t on the market today.