Lithium Batteries Kill LEDs Says Petzl

Tests by the French headtorch specialists suggest that some lithium batteries could damage LEDs in headlamps and the problem is not specific to Petzl.


Posted: 18 September 2006
by Jon

Lithium AA and AAA -sized batteries could damage headtorches using LEDs according to tests carried out by Petzl.

The company says that the 'performance characteristics' of these lithium cells have advanced in order to 'provide high power discharge performance' particularly for digital camera use.

That's all well and good when you use them with cameras, but they say it may also lead to overheating of and consequent damage to LED lights and a reduction in bulb life. The problem is common to most brands of head torches using LEDs and not just Petzl.

The company says that its new e+LITE micro-headlight due out next month which uses watch-sized batteries isn't affected, but it no longer recommends that you use lithium AA or AAA cells with most Petzl models which use LEDs.

That includes the entire Tikka and Zipka family and various other models in their range. You can find a full list on the Petzl web site.

To be honest, very few walkers and climbers we know use lithium cells in the UK at least, but they've been suggested for extreme cold weather use in the past. In the light of the tests, we'd suggest that you stick to non-lithium cells for your LED headtorch whether it's Petzl or not.


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Of course what they really mean is that lithium batteries don't have the internal resistance that alkaline ones do, which they rely upon to limit the current in their unregulated LEDs. Not a problem for a regulated LED torch (eg some of those made by Princeton Tech), but given Petzl don't make a regulated LED I suppose it's understandable for them to forget some other companies do!

For the record I have owned a Tikka, a Tikka Plus and now a Tikka XP, so I am still a fan of these, but they could be so much better if they were regulated!

Posted: 20/09/2006 at 11:13

Oh dear! I bought a Petzl Tikka XP a couple of weeks ago and used Energiser Lithium batteries with it. Maybe I should have read the instructions.......

Posted: 20/09/2006 at 13:12

It would help if Petzl were a little more forthcoming about exactly what effect this has - a piece of lab research could be very different from the practical effect in the real world. For example if it shortens LED life by 5% or 10% if left on constantly then frankly, who cares? But if it reduces it by 50% when used in short bursts then I'd be more concerned.

As it is, I've used a variety of LED torches from Petzl and Black Diamond with lithium batteries for several years now and not encountered any issues, so I think I'll continue - I like the lithiums' light weight, cold weather performance, and longer life (especially when used with my LED/Halogen headtorch), and to be honest the rate LED technology is advancing by the time a torch packs up there's going to be something miles better to replace it with anyway!!

Edit: I may well take a look at Princeton Tec next time I'm in the market though - cheers Chris.

Posted: 20/09/2006 at 13:48

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