Why are we told to store batteries in the refrigerator to preserve them even though battery life seems so poor when electronics are left out in the cold?
The thing I love about batteries is that they seem so utterly unpredictable and even nonsensical - as if to defy all logic - but once you understand their true nature, they make perfect sense. The first thing we must remember is that all batteries are little chemical power generators - as such, they are subject more to the rules of chemistry than they are electromagnetics. One of the common laws of chemistry is that reactions generally speed up when they get warm and slow down when they get cold. Such is the life of a battery. If you want to keep all those good little electrons bottled up tight inside the battery, then keep the batteries cold. The reactions which keep the electrons flowing slow down, making that little thing we call shelf life a lot longer. Remember, just because the battery isn’t hooked up to a circuit, doesn’t mean that it isn’t using up some of its capacity all the time.
Of course, this doesn’t explain why your cell phone battery or camera battery doesn’t seem to last very long when left out in the snow. The answer here lies not in the storage, but in the usage. If your phone or camera is turned off when you leave it on the ice in the middle of a Minnesota winter AND you don’t turn it on until the battery warms up, then you are golden. The problem is not with storing batteries in the cold, but rather trying to use them when they are cold. Remember when batteries are cold and they are asked to spit out a bunch of electrons, they use up a lot of their energy just trying to push the electrons out through the cold and they waste a lot of their potential. Unfortunately, once your potential is gone, it doesn’t come back.