Lithium batteries are primary batteries that have lithium as an anode. These types of batteries are also referred to as lithium-metal batteries.
They stand apart from other batteries in their high charge density (long life) and high cost per unit. Depending on the design and chemical compounds used, lithium cells can produce voltages from 1.5 V (comparable to a zinc–carbon or alkaline battery) to about 3.7 V.
Disposable primary lithium batteries must be distinguished from secondary lithium-ion and lithium-polymer, which are rechargeable batteries. Lithium is specially useful, because its ions can be arranged to move between the anode and the cathode, using an intercalated lithium compound as the cathode material but without using lithium metal as the anode material. Pure lithium will instantly react with water, or even moisture in the air; the lithium in these lithium ion batteries is in a less reactive compound. Mistreatment during charging or discharging can cause outgassing of some of their contents, which can cause explosions or fire.
Lithium batteries are widely used in portable consumer electronic devices, and in electric vehicles ranging from full sized vehicles such as Uninterruptible Power Supply to radio controlled toys.
Lithium batteries find application in many long-life, critical devices, such as pacemakers and other implantable electronic medical devices. These devices use specialized lithium-iodide batteries designed to last 15 or more years. But for other, less critical applications such as in toys, the lithium battery may actually outlast the device. In such cases, an expensive lithium battery may not be cost-effective.