What Is the Difference Between a Battery and an Accumulator?

Batteries and accumulators are sources and suppliers of power for devices and appliances. They both rely on an electrochemical reaction to function. Also, both of them have positive and negative electrodes and an electrolyte that assists the process involving the flow of ions to create a current. At the same time, they have differences in capacity, density, applications, and more. If you want to distinguish the two correctly, keep reading.

Difference Between Batteries and Accumulators

The main difference between battery and accumulator is that batteries can provide a charge but cannot be recharged after use. On the other hand, accumulators can both charge and recharge. Thus, they are known as secondary batteries. Furthermore, they also differ in functions, composition, capacity, and lifespan, which will be discussed below.

Charge Capacity

  • A battery is used for a limited time to provide a charge to your device. Once these batteries run out of charge, you need to replace them with new ones. You will not be able to revive the charge that was lost. The older battery will now hold no more power to be helpful.
  • An accumulator is one that you can use for an extended period since it can provide power to a device and revive that power through recharging. Thus, accumulators can get back their lost voltage while batteries cannot.

Working Energy

Both of their chemical energies are converted into electrical energy. They only had a difference in:

  • For batteries, this is where the process ends until the energy is fully consumed.
  • For accumulators, the electrical energy gets reconverted into chemical energy during the recharging process, allowing it to recover the voltage lost during its usage. Also, it stores thermal and mechanical energy.

Applications

  • Batteries are commonly used in small portable devices such as flashlights or torches, remote controllers, wall clocks, watches, and small radios. After a certain period, these batteries need to be replaced for the devices to work well again.
  • Accumulators are used in easily rechargeable devices, such as smartphones, laptops, cars, steam accumulators, capacitors, electric plants, and other wireless devices. Remember that you don’t need to replace accumulators after discharge.

Composition

  • Some familiar compositions of batteries include alkaline, aluminum, galvanic, atomic, magnesium, mercury, lithium, nickel, silver-oxide, and more.
  • Accumulators can be made from lithium-ion, lead-acid, lithium-metal, nickel-cadmium, calcium, magnesium-ion, or glass, depending on the appliance or device.

Capacity

The capacity for batteries and accumulators can be measured using ampere-hours (Ah) or milliampere-hours (mAh).

  • The battery’s capacity is smaller than accumulators since it uses only for small devices like a wall clock that requires less power.
  • The capacity of accumulators is much higher than that of batteries since they can last longer than batteries. This capacity depends on usage, maintenance, external conditions, charging practices, etc.

Lifespan

  • Since batteries cannot recharge once they run out of charge, they have a limited lifespan that tends to last for a few months until you need to replace them.
  • Accumulators tend to have a longer lifespan due to their recharging ability, going up to hundreds or thousands of charging cycles depending on their composition.

Disposal

  • Batteries cannot be reused. Therefore, it must be disposed of after they run out of its capacity and power. Many batteries end up in landfills, but efforts are being made to recycle them.
  • Accumulators last long and do not need to be continuously disposed of. Accumulators can only be thrown away once in a few years.

Cost

  • Batteries tend to be much cheaper in terms of their purchase cost. However, the long-term costs of batteries are higher since you need to keep buying them regularly to power your devices and appliances.
  • Accumulators are a bit more expensive.¬† It helps you save several costs as they last for a long time.

Environmental Impact

  • Batteries have metals, chemicals, and other substances that are toxic to the environment. Since these batteries generally end up in landfills, they can release such toxic elements into the atmosphere and the ground, leading to pollution.
  • Accumulators provide a lot of power and can be used for several years with frequent charging, thereby significantly reducing their contribution to environmental pollution.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an accumulator in an electric car?

An accumulator is a form of rechargeable battery that electric cars use. Most electric cars now use lithium-ion batteries due to their durability, quality, and high energy density. These batteries can be recharged periodically to power the cars. Since they are kept in the container, they can stay protected, making them last for several years at a time.

What are cells?

Cells are some of the smallest components of batteries (or even accumulators). They comprise the positive and negative electrodes, the electrolyte, and a separator. Depending on the composition of these elements, the cell can have a certain capacity level that can then provide power or charge to a device. With external conditions and maintenance, this capacity can decrease or be maintained well based on its natural self-discharge rate.

Why are secondary cells called accumulators?

Secondary cells are called accumulators since these cells revive and restore the charge or voltage lost during the previous use of the cell or battery in a device. They don’t only convert the chemical energy into electrical energy but also reconvert the electrical energy into chemical energy. So, the energy is stored or accumulated inside these cells for subsequent use.

What is BMS?

BMS refers to a Battery Management System responsible for efficiently functioning rechargeable batteries or accumulators. These include tracking, monitoring, and applying relevant information related to the voltage, resistance, and more.

Conclusion

Knowing the differences between a battery and an accumulator is essential to gauge how it works and where they are used. Some notable distinct characteristics say that a battery is rechargeable but can’t be revived after use. Thus, you need to replace it as soon as possible. While an accumulator can be recharged and reused, making it last longer than a battery. Furthermore, a battery is used for small devices like watches and radios, while an accumulator is used for significant devices such as laptops, cars, etc.

About the author, Phil Borges

Phil Borges is a battery aficionado. He's written extensively about batteries, and he loves nothing more than discussing the latest innovations in the industry. He has a deep understanding of how batteries work, and he's always on the lookout for new ways to improve their performance.