BU-502: Discharging at High and Low Temperatures

Explore the limitations when operating a battery at adverse temperatures and learn how to minimize the effects.

Like humans, batteries function best at room temperature. Warming a dying battery in a mobile phone or flashlight in our jeans might provide additional runtime due to improved electrochemical reaction. This is likely also the reason why manufacturers prefer to specify batteries at a toasty 27°C (80°F). Operating a battery at elevated temperatures improves performance but prolonged exposure will shorten life.

As all drivers in cold countries know, a warm battery cranks the car engine better than a cold one. Cold temperature increases the internal resistance and lowers the capacity. A battery that provides 100 percent capacity at 27°C (80°F) will typically deliver only 50 percent at –18°C (0°F). The momentary capacity-decrease differs with battery chemistry.

The dry solid polymer battery requires a temperature of 60–100°C (140–212°F) to promote ion flow and become conductive. This type of battery has found a niche market for stationary power applications in hot climates where heat serves as a catalyst rather than a disadvantage. Built-in heating elements keep the battery operational at all times. High battery cost and safety concerns have limited the application of this system. The more common lithium-polymer uses gelled electrolyte to enhance conductivity.

All batteries achieve optimum service life if used at 20°C (68°F) or slightly below. If, for example, a battery operates at 30°C (86°F) instead of a more moderate lower room temperature, the cycle life is reduced by 20 percent. At 40°C (104°F), the loss jumps to a whopping 40 percent, and if charged and discharged at 45°C (113°F), the cycle life is only half of what can be expected if used at 20°C (68°F). (See also BU-808: How to Prolong Lithium-based Batteries.)

The performance of all batteries drops drastically at low temperatures; however, the elevated internal resistance will cause some warming effect by efficiency loss caused by voltage drop when applying a load current. At –20°C (–4°F) most batteries are at about 50 percent performance level. Although NiCd can go down to –40°C (–40°F), the permissible discharge is only 0.2C (5-hour rate). Specialty Li-ion can operate to a temperature of –40°C but only at a reduced discharge rate; charging at this temperature is out of the question. With lead acid there is the danger of the electrolyte freezing, which can crack the enclosure. Lead acid freezes quicker with a low charge when the specific gravity is more like water than when fully charged.

Matched cells with identical capacities play an important role when discharging at low temperature and under heavy load. Since the cells in a battery pack can never be perfectly matched, a negative voltage potential can occur across a weaker cell in a multi-cell pack if the discharge is allowed to continue beyond a safe cut-off point. Known as cell reversal, the weak cell gets stressed to the point of developing a permanent electrical short. The larger the cell-count, the greater is the likelihood of cell-reversal under load. Over-discharge at a low temperature and heavy load is a large contributor to battery failure of cordless power tools(See BU-803a: Cell Matching and Balancing.)

The driving range of an electric vehicle between charges is calculated at ambient temperature. EV drivers are being made aware that frigid temperature reduces the available mileage. This loss is not only caused by heating the cabin electrically but by the inherent slowing of the battery’s electrochemical reaction, which reduces the capacity while cold.

Last updated 2018-01-25

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Comments (51)

On October 31, 2011 at 1:12pm
gohr then wrote:

good article

On February 7, 2012 at 10:43am
Allen Normand wrote:

Looking for engine starting batteries to be used in Dubai area where ambiant temp can get to 52 degrees C and the engine room can get to 60 degree C. Right now we have 4 - 8D batteries per engine X 6 engines (series and parallel for 24VDC) and we are having to change every year or so..
Any suggestions?
Gell cells?
New Technology??

On August 7, 2012 at 3:29am
Mehmet TURKER wrote:

Is 18650 li-ion battery can use at -40C? Thanks for informations.

On August 24, 2012 at 2:52am
Stijn wrote:

What is the maximum temperature before a lipo pouch cell is permanently damaged?

On August 30, 2012 at 4:12am
Yenya wrote:

I want to choose battery for my bicycle lights. I ride my bike also in winter (let’s say up to -12 degrees celsius). Which battery type can be used? I don’t need full capacity at that temperature, because in winter I only ride my bike for commuting and not for longer trips, but I would not like to damage the battery in that temperature.

I have found articles that Li-Pol can be damaged by low temperatures. How about LiFePo or others?  I would prefer not to carry lead-acid accumulator on my bike grin

On October 12, 2012 at 5:46am
Ayush Sugandhi wrote:

Great article

On November 17, 2012 at 4:24pm
BackBlast wrote:

Easy way to solve a bike light in cold weather is to keep it on your person or in your pocket until you need it.  The cell(s) will be much higher than ambient and you won’t have any trouble on a short ride.  High output lights will generate enough internal heat to compensate some thereafter, depending on the power consumption, efficiency, airflow, etc…

I believe that damage can occur if you discharge too fast at low temperatures, or attempt a charge at low temperatures with any Lithium variant.

I use LSD NiMH and more recently LiFePO4 for my bike lights, though I’m never riding at -12C.  I’ve been relatively pleased with NiMH low temp performance so far.  Especially with the newest cells when on a low cycle count.

On February 10, 2013 at 1:54pm
relyt wrote:

could any body use this as a science project?

On March 3, 2013 at 2:43pm

Can a new lithium-ion battery be discharged (ruined) if shipped via air with low temperature in cargo bay?

On March 28, 2013 at 11:10pm
Victor wrote:

well, at 27°C the li-ion battery has a maximum performance?

On August 4, 2013 at 2:49pm
Subutay wrote:

what is the max.working temperature for li-ion cell 18650

50 C ? / 80 C or any ?

On October 22, 2013 at 5:51pm
SON wrote:

What is better? Case 1 or Case 2
Case 1. Batteries shall be rated for the minimum ambient temperature of five Deg. C for discharge duty.
Case 2. Batteries shall be rated for the minimum ambient temperature of twenty-five Deg. C for discharge duty.

Thanks you in advance.

On January 8, 2014 at 9:28pm
shaym wrote:

i need a chemical name

      in which chemical react with copper its defuse the tungsten filament or leak the alkaline batterys.

On January 25, 2014 at 2:12am
Sara wrote:

what’s the relation between battery temperature and voltage ?  I mean the equation .

On May 13, 2014 at 10:50pm
mohammed nazeer wrote:

i want to know the name of the chemical which can be coated on copper and the coated chemical which reduce the life of battery or it may discharges the volt. can anyone help me to know about the product

On May 31, 2014 at 12:23am
kunnal kumaar wrote:

I want to know the name of the chemical which can be coated on copper and the coated chemical which reduce the life of battery or it may discharges the volt….pals answer.

On August 19, 2014 at 3:57am
nagaraju wrote:

  in which chemical react with copper its defuse the tungsten filamen

On October 18, 2014 at 11:23am
Dan78 wrote:

Regarless the range, what could be the minimum operation temperature for a lithium-ion EV. Freezing point of the battery.


On November 18, 2014 at 5:23am
jakub wrote:

why Lithium-Ion batteries have significant voltage drop when started discharging at low temperature? E.g. NCR18650B has it, also some batteries from Saft which I am testing

On December 15, 2014 at 10:13pm
Mahdy wrote:

I have bought sealed acid batteries with internal resistance 0.300 ohm (measured in 15 degree centigrade). Is it well made?

On October 25, 2015 at 11:41am
Khalil wrote:

forget you

On November 15, 2015 at 11:30am
stuart wrote:

Does anyone know where I can source a lithium battery which I can use to test a golf product - I need to source it in UAE as unable to travel with the ones I have - Voltage 46,8V = 13S configuration

13S BMS with about 68 A constant discharge

Cell US 18650 VTC 5 with 2500 Ah (power tool cell)

Cell holder

As we will have no time to make any cell holder, we can use attached one Zeichnung Art. 19139.

For testing I would recommend following configuration:

13S6P US18650VTC5

16,8Ah 730,08Wh


13S8P US18650VTC5

20,0 Ah           1460,16 Wh

On June 1, 2016 at 9:30am
KRR wrote:

Any chance of coin cell working at lower temperature, say -20 Celsius?

On June 10, 2016 at 7:34am
Nehmo Sergheyev wrote:

“The performance of all batteries drops drastically at low temperatures; however, the elevated internal resistance will cause some warming effect.”
The passage is misleading. The higher internal resistance, in itself, has no effect on temperature. A higher resistance at the same voltage means less current. Thus, less power dissipated as heat.
The author seems to want to say that the battery will heat up as it is being used.

On July 26, 2016 at 9:42am
Jack McNamara wrote:

Dealing with lead acid, or gell cell batteries, we used equipment rated for 32F to 120F with typical operation of 70F..  Is it possible to find out the difference of battery capacity of the battery between those ranges.  Those ranges are typical for most electronic equipment, unless specifically designed for temperature extremes..

On August 4, 2016 at 10:17pm
Sandeep Singh Sengar wrote:

I have same problem of battery temp is low, and my phone was not charging. I tried all the way then I went to shop to change my battery or to check other faults.  repaired person has took out the battery, and there was just one spot on battery pin, he clean that spot with pin. then my lenovo mobile was working perfectly.  So you can just tried this one also!!

On August 8, 2016 at 2:13pm
Allan Feinstein wrote:

Big issue in our area is will putting your auto remote opener ( Prius) in freezer good idea.  Thought is to protect against amplifier used by thief to open car.  Some assume user is counting on freezer acting as a Faraday cage. Perhaps the idea is that cold disables battery so radio transmitting is disabled.  I’m not sure what kind of batteries are typically used, but perhaps you know.

On December 21, 2016 at 9:39am
ersin erkal wrote:

What is the maximum temperature that lipo batteries can withstand?

On December 22, 2016 at 9:52pm
Maxwell Hu wrote:

Ersin Erkal, lipo batteries can withstand up too 60 Celsius.

On January 8, 2017 at 2:23pm
Ken wrote:

Went out on my electric velo today. 48v 20ah lifepo4 HiPower cells. Temp -15C voltage sag close 5v at 800w just under 1C draw. In warmer weather that would be more like 1.5v. Putting my electric heating pads back under the pack. Got 2, 14” x 12”  heating pads a few years ago and they really make a difference in Winter range.

On January 13, 2017 at 8:41pm
Hannah wrote:

I am doing a science fair project on the effect if temperature on battery life. The battery and battery operated device will be in that temperature discharging until the battery can longer send electrical current to power the device. Is it okay to operate the batteries at 160°F? They are alkaline AA batteries.

On January 16, 2017 at 5:00pm
Nehmo Sergheyev wrote:

The recommended operating temperature range for alkaline batteries is -18° C to 55° C.
The 70° C (160°F) you are inquiring about is too high, and they might rupture. However, if your application isn’t critical, and the current isn’t too high, an experiment may show that they survive. The reported limits are usually conservative.

On February 2, 2017 at 2:42pm
Christopher Dundorf wrote:

I’m looking for graph of safe C/X vs Temperature for charging a single cell LiPo battery.  We need to charge an outdoor remote sensor in temperatures down to 5C and possibly -15C.

On February 2, 2017 at 2:55pm
Christopher Dundorf wrote:

To be more specific we have a single 2500 mAh LiPo cell and 70mA charger (C/35).  How cold can we safely go?

On February 6, 2017 at 2:37pm
Christopher Dundorf wrote:

resigning up to be on email list.

On March 4, 2017 at 4:33am
George Cheney wrote:

I stopped smoke detectors from issuing low battery beeps (temporarily) by raising room temperature back to 70 degrees F. We usually lower the temperature to 60 degrees at bedtime.

On May 15, 2017 at 9:39am
Jimslim wrote:

This article is a work of art, God bless this article.

On July 19, 2017 at 1:58pm
donb wrote:

Good summary article but The statement
“At –20°C (–4°F) most batteries stop functioning.”  is not accurate. LiFe batteries may only be down 50%

On September 19, 2017 at 10:30am
High School Student wrote:

What batteries would be best to use for a high altitude high balloon at about -70 degrees Celsius? The smaller the weight the better.

On September 20, 2017 at 12:46am
Nehmo Sergheyev wrote:

@High School Student,
-70 C is low by earthly standards. The lithium thionyl chloride (Li-SOCl2) battery could be the best choice even though the specs don’t go that far down. http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?doc_id=1322276
The product literature states these batteries are suitable for temperatures as low as -55°C.
Another idea would be to enclose the batteries in a vacuum insulated thermos bottle.

On October 19, 2017 at 8:00am
Ricky Catto wrote:

@high School Student

I sent one of those up in Aug. After a few trials i found that using regular Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries wrapped in a electric heating pad from Adafruit worked well up to over 32000m. The pads are $4.

On December 11, 2017 at 4:21am
Cindy Cara wrote:

I have two specific questions that maybe this forum can help with.
I drive a Ford Focus electric 2017 and plan to try to drive it through the winter. My work does not have a plug for me so the car and battery will be outside in the cold all day while I work. If I buy a power bank (the kind that can run small tools and jump start a car) would that have enough power to plug my car into to give me enough charge to warm it up at end of day rather than using my car batter and reducing range?
Second question. Can I use the same power bank to run a 12v windshield heater to reduce or eliminate the need to run car heater which sucks a lot of battery power from car in cold?

On January 14, 2018 at 2:03pm
vio wrote:

answer for Cindy Cara: not really at both questions. You could try….. But electric car are really big consumer of electricity. If not possible to charge the car at work than your commute from house to work and back home need to be in the range of the car.  In winter time let say your car it shows 100 miles range you may get way less (maybee 70 miles).
check youtube for tips…..

On January 23, 2018 at 7:08am
DTM wrote:

Another consideration is whether one wants to utilize waste heat from the application.  For example, the LED on a headlamp generates a lot of heat when run on high.  One can buy 18650 headlamps where the battery is in the same body as the LED, or in a separate battery case at the back.  It’s advantageous to use the former type during winter (where LED waste heat may help warm the battery) and the latter during the summer (to avoid overheating).


To the gentleman above who wrote:

““The performance of all batteries drops drastically at low temperatures; however, the elevated internal resistance will cause some warming effect.”
The passage is misleading. The higher internal resistance, in itself, has no effect on temperature. A higher resistance at the same voltage means less current. Thus, less power dissipated as heat.
The author seems to want to say that the battery will heat up as it is being used.”

I think the point here is that, while yes less current flows due to a higher total resistance, the internal resistance of the battery leads to heat being generated directly inside the battery, which would help it in the cold.

I know it’s a kind of silly specialized thing, but it would be neat to see Li Ion batteries built specifically for high-drain cold-temp use, with some insulation, and an intentional 0.1 ohm resistance.

On August 7, 2018 at 2:43pm
Adrian wrote:

This is a good start, but I am curious where some data is about this. The article briefly describes batteries that are at 50% of their performance at -20C. It talks about the internal resistance increasing as temperature goes down, is this linear? if not what does it look like? Are there any graphs on test results for this?
I would like to explore the tradeoffs as I am designing something that will be periodically drawing small amounts of current, at low temperatures but no lower than water freezing point. This battery will be single charge lasting over 6 months. So capacity wise am I better to go with something that is has really good low temperature performance, or is this temperature not low enough to make a big impact on capacity. Also what impact will this temperature make on each type of LiPO?

On September 14, 2018 at 12:06pm
lip wrote:

this is a good place to learn battery good. i teach studrent about good. i love this site. love from seoul

On October 5, 2018 at 2:13am
jayamurugan meivel wrote:

Hi…. i am using Li-Ion coincell battery for my product,My product target is -40 to 70 Deg C,But -20Deg C my product was reset..How to resolve this issue and how to make my product to work with -40Deg C

On November 2, 2018 at 2:41pm

I need help.
What batteries did they use when they went to the moon.?
The moon reaches +127C in full sunlight and in full shade it goes down to minus 173C
They powered everything from air-conditioning and heating to transmitting speech and TV pictures back to Earth.
Later they took a Lunar Rover which also required it’s own batteries.
So what actual batteries did they take and how many of them?

On November 29, 2018 at 2:11am
Michelle A wrote:

I have a CR2032 coincell battery operated wireless doorbell.  It seems to get picky about working in the summertime when temps are are over 100 F and then when temps drop below 50F   Also when it’s very windy.  Any suggestions?

On December 6, 2018 at 12:30am
Laur Joost wrote:

I have no facts to give, but for two considerations:
1. “Air-conditioning and heating” is the likely answer to your question regarding the lander. If the internal space was already being heated and cooled (more likely only heated, with reflective shielding responsible for keeping it from overheating)
2. Battery heaters are routine for anything larger than a cubesat going to space. My guess for the rover is that the batteries were insulated with electic heating blankets inside (or perhaps even integrated in the cells). Space exploration was (and to an extent, still is) not a Commercial-Off-The-Shelf venture: if they needed batteries that could heat themselves, they made them.

On December 14, 2018 at 12:52pm
Jerome M wrote:

Excellent articles on this web site