How Much Do You Know About Batteries?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: wikimedia

About This Quiz

Imagine, if you will, a world without batteries. To start your, car perhaps you’d have to turn a massive hand crank. You’d never be able to listen to music on your morning run. That fancy smartphone you have? In order to make it work, you’d need to carry a power cable with you everywhere, plugging in each time you wanted to send a text or play “Flappy Bird.” And that’s all just for starters. Our modern world would look very different without those little powerhouses that make our gadgets go. In this electrifying quiz, what do you really know about batteries?

From lights to electronics to motor vehicles and much more, batteries are simply an integral part of human civilization – if these advanced power cells didn’t exist, our homes and cities would look different in a plethora of ways. Do you know when history of batteries began? Was it way back in the 1600s … or are batteries a more modern phenomenon?

The first batteries were predictably primitive. Even the inventors who made them weren’t quite sure about the mysterious processes that were occurring inside their fantastic experiments. Do you know the scientists who made the first batteries, and how they learned to improve on previous designs?

Battery technologies themselves have changed dramatically and branched into various industries over the decades. Those that were common 100 years ago look very different than the lithium-ion magic we see today. 

Power your way through this battery quiz now! Maybe you’ll turbo-charge through all of the questions, or maybe your brain will short-circuit halfway through!

Electric batteries rely on what source to create power?

Electric batteries harness the potential of electrochemical cells. The chemical reactions in the cells create an electric current that can be used to power all sorts of devices.


Single-use batteries are also called ____ batteries.

Primary batteries can be used once … and that's it. Single-use batteries are cheaper than rechargables, but they're more wasteful.


Who created the first electrochemical battery?

In 1800, Alessandro Volta constructed the world's first electrochemical battery. His invention charged a revolution.


True or false, did Alessandro Volta understand how his first battery worked?

Alessandro Volta was an Italian physicist, and with his early battery, he actually didn't realize that it was working due to a chemical reaction. In his mind, the contraption would provide a ceaseless amount of energy.


What was one one way Alessandro Volta got his first taste of the energy potential of batteries?

It's the old 9-volt battery trick. Volta touched two different metals to his tongue and felt the tiny tingle of electricity between them … and it set his mind working.


Alessandro's Volta's first battery was called what?

Volta's battery included pairs of zinc and copper discs -- in a pile, of course -- with brine-soaked material (like cloth) between them. But it was a very primitive technology.


In Volta's voltaic pile, the brine-soaked water was what's called _____.

The stacks of copper and zinc alone weren't enough. The voltaic pile required an electrolyte to help create an electrical current between the metals. Electrolytes are a vital part of battery technology.


What was one problem with the first voltaic pile?

The voltaic pile generated hydrogen bubbles, which slowly but surely degraded the battery's potential. Without a solution, the concept of the pile would likely have died an early death.


In 1836, John Frederic Daniell, a British chemist, created the Daniell cell. How was it superior to Volta's voltaic pile?

Volta's voltaic pile didn't produce energy for any real length of time. The Daniell cell, however, was a lasting source of energy that found commercial success.


How did the Daniell cell solve the problem of hydrogen bubbles in voltaic piles?

The Daniell cell leveraged not one, but two electrolytes. The second electrolyte was formulated to eliminated the pesky hydrogen bubbles … and therefore, greatly extended the battery's life.


What was one major problem of the very earliest batteries?

In the very first batteries, voltage flutuactions made them useless for actual power purposes. But these early variants were what gave rise to more modern versions.


What's an interesting trait of "secondary" batteries?

Secondary batteries, unlike primary batteries, are rechargeable. They can be used numerous times, a fact that cuts down on the number of batteries disposed each year.


True or false, can secondary batteries be used an unlimited number of times?

Rechargeable batteries may last for years, but they don’t don't last forever. As any smartphone owner knows, these batteries slowly break down and wear out.


Danielle cells and other early batteries were limited in their applications due to which trait?

The liquid electrolyte of these early batteries was a real hazard. It could leak or spill, meaning there was no way for these cells to be used for portable purpsoses.


In the late 1800s, engineers created dry cell batteries, which eliminated the liquid in the product. What did dry cells use for the electrolyte?

Dry cell batteries substituted a paste for the liquid electrolyte. Suddenly, batteries could be integrated into portable products without fear of toxic electrolyte solution dumping all over the place.


In what year was the rechargeable battery invented?

In 1859, a French physicist named Gaston Planté created the first lead-acid battery that could be charged and drained repeatedly. It was the first lead-acid battery.


How did Gaston Planté recharge his groundbreaking lead-acid battery?

Gaston Planté's lead-acid battery was the first to accept a recharge. To start this process, he simply reversed the current, and the battery would gain back the energy that had been previously exhausted.


True or false, are there are currently three primary battery technologies?

False. Chemists and engineers have created dozens of types of battery technologies. All of them have varying power potential and lifespans.


Nickel–cadmium batteries are a type of _____.

Up until the 1980s, nickel–cadmium batteries were a very common type of rechargeable (secondary) battery. But improved technologies in the 1990s quickly ate the market share of these batteries, which debuted in 1899.


What's one drawback to rechargeable batteries?

Rechargeable batteries cost substantially more than disposable batteries. But because they can be reused so many times, they actually cost much, much less over the long run.


Some rechargeable batteries, suffer from the "memory effect," in which the battery "remembers" the point of its last state of charge -- ultimately, this affects the battery's energy potential. Which battery technology is notorious for memory effect?

When you used nickel–cadmium batteries, you had to remember to fully discharge -- and then recharge -- the cells each time you used them. Otherwise, the memory effect would essentially ruin them.


What's a cool feature of smart batteries?

Smart batteries have built-in components that measure both current and voltage. They can start and stop charging as needed, a fact that can greatly extend battery life.


Smart batteries are very common in which product?

Personal computers commonly use smart batteries. It's how you know the level of power that's remaining in your computer. And the smart battery also enables a range of power management features.


What can happen if you try to recharge an alkaline battery?

Alkaline batteries are not a rechargeable technology. If you put them in a recharger, they may well rupture and ooze corrosive (and hazardous) liquids.


Before 1996, it was unsafe to dispose of alkaline batteries in landfills. Why?

Before legislation ended the practice in the '90s, alkaline batteries contained mercury, which is highly toxic. Even with mercury-free battery construction, it is illegal in many places to dispose of alkalines along with regular household waste.


Which battery technology is extremely common in today's small electronics, particularly smartphones?

Lithium-ion batteries have fast recharge rates and great energy potential. It's one reason they are so common in electronics, from cameras to smartphones.


Which battery company uses a pink rabbit for a famous marketing campaign?

The Energizer Battery bunny, a pink rabbit that pounds a drum, was introduced way back in 1988. And he is still going, and going…


What's one factor that can cause alkaline batteries to leak?

High temperatures commonly cause alkaline batteries to rupture. It's one reason you don't leave battery-powered electronics on your car's dashboard on a hot summer day.


Today's lithium-ion battery technologies are great for storing power for long periods of time. If you don't use them, the batteries self-discharge at a rate of just ____ per month.

Lithium-ion batteries -- when not in use -- discharge at a slow rate of just 2% per month. That means after half a year, only 12% of the battery's charge will dissipate.


Only one U.S. state requires the recycling of spent alkaline batteries. Which state is it?

European countries push alkaline recycling. In the U.S., though, a lot of alkalines wind up in landfills -- only California requires that the batteries be recycled.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!