Batteries: Out of juice

Which channel is “Duck Dynasty” on?

TIME was when a household torch used an incandescent bulb and gobbled disposable batteries. Now it is more likely to have a low-power LED (light-emitting diode) and a long-lasting rechargeable battery—or none at all: a flick of the wrist or a twist of a handle can provide enough juice for a bright steady light.These trends—lower power consumption, better and cheaper rechargeables, new power sources—are squeezing what used to be a lucrative market. Remote controls for televisions, for example, used to be powered by batteries. Now they can be an app on a mobile phone. The latest gadgets, such as wearable devices, come with batteries built in—typically based on a thin sliver of lithium, not a tube packed with manganese dioxide, alkali and zinc. “There are fewer cavities,” says Ali Dibadj of Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm.Competition is intensifying, too. Many consumers now buy batteries at discount shops and favour own-label or no-label versions over the pricey branded products. In America the two leading makers, Energizer and Duracell (the latter owned by Procter & Gamble), have lost…

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