The Care and Feed (Charge) of your Radio Batteries

Current Handheld Radios (and other devices for that matter) have greatly benefited from today’s Lithium Ion battery technology.

There are definite advantages of this genre of battery chemistries; wether they may be Lithium-iron (LiFePO4), Lithium Polymer (LiPo), Lithium Manganese (LiMn), and finally Lithium Cobalt (LiCo) which is what modern radios use.


Image source:

One of the greatest advantages is that Lithium batteries maintain their charge for long. Quality, name-brand, batteries will usually show above 90% capacity, a year after their recharge.

Then there is the advantage of not requiring to be drained down to zero for them to be recharged. In fact you can just recharge them at whim regardless of their remaining capacity.

They also perform quite well in cold temperatures, they can handle a radio’s power draw easy, and their weight to energy stored ratio is Very good. Lastly they are still evolving and getting better each year.

Another salient fact is that you can know their remaining capacity easily with the help of a multimeter. You just measure their voltage.

There is a relation between voltage and remaining capacity and it goes somehow like this:

Battery Table

Do notice that the actual battery voltage differs from the nominal value you find in the battery specs.

Now you might think you have found the holy grail of batteries, but nothing is free my friends.

So let’s discuss the downsides:

  • You cannot recharge a lithium ion battery in under the freeze-point temperatures.
  • You should never over-discharge and over-charge your lithium ion battery. That largely applies if you use a non-standard charger, cos your radio’s charger takes care of proper charging.
  • Lithium batteries have a finite life. After 3-5 years you should be seeing a drop in performance. And this decrease also relates -among other reasons- to just age alone. Even if the battery is totally unused.
  • Heat kills them. The harder you charge them, and the longer you leave them on the charging cradle, the more life you are robbing out of them.

How do all these translate to use with your radio?

(also applies to your cellphone and laptop batteries)

Your radio will either have a 3.6V (Baofeng UV-3R) or a 7.2V battery (most handheld radios in the market). Their actual voltage is different from what you will sew at the label. 4.2 & 8.4V when full respectably, and with the help of the table above you can know their capacity.

Generally and considering the facts stated above, one can just follow these simple practices:

  • Do not leave them on the charging cradle. You gain nothing by this.
  • Charge them when you need to.
  • Use them because they are consumable.
  • Buy fresh made replacement batteries.

I do understand that may Survivalist want to maintain their gear at peak “ready” condition and would object to the off-cradle suggestion. I think I have made my point.


It is more important if you check your radios for draining the battery even when they are off. These you want at peak capability.

It happens with my Kenwood TH-F6(7), it will drain down the battery in two to three months. On the contrary the Bao UV-5R is less demanding.

Keeping the battery off the radio causes more issues cos you might lose the programming & settings (depending on memory chip type used).

For that reason I store my Kenwood with the AA carrier on with NiMh Eneloops in it and keep the real battery close by.

Further Reading

You can not do bad with some Battery University education. This online battery encyclopedia is maintained by the Cadex Battery Analyzers company so they really know their stuff.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s