Difference Between Lithium Cell and Lithium-Ion Cell

It was just two centuries ago in 1800 when Italian physicist Alessandro Volta created the first practical battery. His original battery consisted of zinc and silver stacked in alternating layers, with a piece of cloth soaked in saline between each pair of incompatible metals. The battery, often known as "Volta's pile," was the first galvanic or primary battery. There have been several advancements in battery technology since then. The science and technology behind batteries has taken a giant leap forward in the past decade. The lithium-ion battery is one example of a newly created and widely available secondary battery.

Whilst main batteries are still used for most small consumer electronics, rechargeable batteries are becoming increasingly popular due to their lower price and higher efficiency. For a long time, the field of cutting-edge power sources was dominated by the science and technology of lithium batteries. Yet, the large variety of applications for today's lithium-ion cells means that they must meet a wide variety of performance criteria, most of which originate from end users. Whilst there are intermediate varieties, lithium-ion batteries are often categorized as either high energy or high power. The most obvious distinction is that lithium cells are primary cells whereas lithium-ion cells are secondary cells.

What is Lithium Cell?

A lithium cell is a light, compact primary cell that packs a lot of power. Portable electronics often employ lithium batteries. As far as storage technologies go, lithium-based batteries are by far the most crucial option currently accessible.

Lithium's two distinct qualities make it an excellent choice for use as a battery's negative electrode.

  • On the periodic table, lithium has the lowest atomic mass of 6.94, making it the lightest metal.

  • The second reason is that it is the most efficient source of energy per unit of weight and has the highest electrochemical reduction potential.

When these two characteristics are combined, the resulting battery has a high specific energy. Yet, lithium primary batteries can't be recharged without risk, thus lithium-ion secondary cells were developed.

What is Lithium-Ion Cell?

Almost all modern mobile devices, including smartphones, laptops, cameras, etc., rely on lithium-ion batteries for power. Because of their high power and energy densities, lithium-ion secondary cells are the preferred energy storage devices for use in portable consumer electronics, telecommunications devices, and automotive sector applications such hybrid electric cars (HEV). Lithium-ion cells depend on the reversible incorporation of Lithium ions into the molecular structures of the cathode and anode active materials.

In the 1990s, the first lithium-ion batteries hit the market. Although research on lithium batteries began in 1912, the first commercially available non-rechargeable lithium cells were not made accessible until the early 1970s. In 1991, the first lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries became available for commercial use. Lithium-ion battery usage has skyrocketed ever since.

Differences: Lithium and Lithium Ion

The following table highlights the major differences between Lithium Cell and Lithium Ion Cell −



Lithium Ion


Lithium cell is a primary cell known for its high energy density and low weight, and which has metallic lithium as an anode.

Lithium batteries are also referred to as lithium-metal batteries. However, the lithium primary batteries are not safely and easily rechargeable, which eventually led to the invention of lithium-ion secondary cells.

Lithium-ion cells are secondary cells which rely on reversible insertion of Lithium ions into the structures of cathode and anode active materials.

These are the most favorable energy storage devices because of their high power and high energy densities.


The outlay for rechargeable lithium-ion secondary batteries is greater than that for lithium primary batteries, and there is also a need for a charger.

Nevertheless, the extra costs are offset after a few recharges, and thereafter the use of rechargeable batteries is more viable and efficient on the long run.

The frequency of use is a key factor in deciding whether to go for a primary lithium cell or a secondary lithium-ion cell.


Some people find it difficult to have to remember to recharge batteries. Also, lithium-ion secondary batteries have an abrupt end point of recharge meaning you will never exactly know when the battery will discharge.

The voltage decline of primary lithium cells is gradual and you will have a slight idea when your battery is about to be discharged and there is an adequate warning that it is time for replacement.

So, in terms of convenience, both the batteries have their fair share of pros and cons.


Modern lithium-ion cells are subject to a wide range of performance requirements, driven by the needs of their Lithium batteries are commonly used in watches.

Lithium-ion secondary cells are the most favorable energy storage devices because of their high power and high energy densities which makes them perfect for applications in portable consumer electronics, telecommunications devices and automotive industry such as hybrid electric vehicles (HEV).

Due to their high density and power capabilities, they are also used for some high-end applications such as military needs on the land, in the air, on and under the water.


Lithium is a chemical element that is widely used in many applications due to its unique properties, while Lithium Ion refers to a specific type of rechargeable battery that uses Lithium as the cathode material.

Understanding the difference between Lithium and Lithium Ion can help us understand the properties and applications of these two concepts, and can help us choose the right battery for our needs.

Updated on: 26-Apr-2023


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