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How Batteries are Classified

There are many types of batteries, with different chemistries for different applications. The UK Battery Regulations 2009 have categorized batteries broadly by their application into three groups, which are defined by the Government as follows:


Automotive Batteries

An automotive battery is one which is used for the starting or ignition of the engine of a vehicle, or for providing power for any lighting used by such a vehicle.


Portable Batteries

An industrial battery or battery pack is
one which is:

(i) designed exclusively for industrial or professional uses;
(ii) used as a source of power for propulsion in an electric vehicle;
(iii) unsealed, but is not an automotive battery; or
(iv) sealed, but is not a portable battery.

Industrial Batteries

A portable battery or battery pack is one which is sealed, can be handcarried without difficulty, and is neither an automotive nor industrial battery.


However, these classifications do not address the recycling route for batteries, which depends on the chemistry. The vast majority of Automotive batteries are the same chemisty – lead acid – but the Industrial and Portable categories contain batteries of every chemistry. The panel (here) highlights the main battery chemistries.

  bullet point Lead acid batteries
  bullet point Alkaline manganese batteries
  bullet point Primary (single-use) Lithium batteries
  bullet point Secondary (rechargeable) Lithium batteries
  bullet point Lithium ion batteries
  bullet point Nickel cadmium batteries
  bullet point Nickel metal hydride batteries
  bullet point Alkaline batteries
  bullet point Zinc carbon batteries
  bullet point Silver oxide batteries
  bullet point Zinc chloride batteries
  bullet point Zinc air batteries
  bullet point Mercury oxide batteries
  bullet point Air depolarised batteries

Even with these definitions, in some circumstances it can still be difficult to decide whether a battery is Industrial or Portable. To help with this, Environment Agency has issued guidance to help clarify the open-ended question of what constitutes something that can be easily hand carried.

This states that any non Industrial battery that weighs less than 4 kg will definitely be Portable. Any battery over 10kg will definitely be Industrial (unless it is Automotive). Between 4 and 10kg, the decision as to whether the battery is Portable or Industrial will depend on its size and shape.


(click on the link to find out more about each chemistry within automotive, portable and industrial waste batteries)