A kind of premium disposable battery I came across in the drug store the other day.

(Now, with a power source that has the audacity to bear the name of "E2", I fully expected these cells to somehow harness the energy of the most powerful substance in the universe-- namely, the nodegel itself. At the very least, this shocking discovery demanded futher investigation. I couldn't resist. As it turns out, these batteries are something far less exciting than an Everythingian would expect. Actually, to be perfectly frank, they turned out be one of the most shamelessly spin-doctored products I've ever encountered.)

You may recall, Energizer made its first foray into the premium battery market with its Energizer Advanced Formula line. Over-hyped and over-priced, these quickly died an abyssmal death on the market, beat out by competing brands like Duracell Ultra. Over the last year, however, after some rebranding legerdemain and over $100 million spent on a new marketing campaign, they relaunched the battery as the "Energizer e2, with Titanium technology!"

So, what's all the hubbub about? In probably not the wisest choice I've ever made, I decided to turn to the Energizer corporate website (Energizer.com) to get some answers. What I did find there struck me as decidely... well, I'll let you be the judge...

Why does Energizer® e2™ look different than all other batteries in the store?
We designed Energizer® e2™ from the ground up, based on extensive discussions with the people who depend on batteries most heavily. They told us they wanted a higher performing battery— the best product money could buy. So we developed Energizer® e2™ with a heart of titanium, a more accurate tester, a recloseable pack and a package that signals its high quality.

(Read that sentence again. It simply mystifies me. "The public demanded a higher performing battery. Not wanting to mislead the consumer, we had no choice but to paint them bright silver." You see, this is why PR guys get to drive Ferraris...)

Is titanium a new ingredient in batteries?
Titanium has traditionally served as an insulator in alkaline batteries. Our scientists were able to combine an additive with the titanium that helps unlock power by enhancing the flow of electrons. This form of titanium did not exist anywhere in the world and is specially formulated for Energizer® e2™.

What other improvements are built into Energizer® e2™?
In addition to titanium, we engineered several other improvements into the Energizer® e2™ overall cell construction, including:

  1. A new welded current collector
  2. A convolute separator which provides a more efficient use of the battery’s internal space
  3. Improved internal ingredients, including a new graphite formulation used to coat the inside of the can

Those improvements, combined with user-friendly features like a gauge-style tester and a recloseable pack, make Energizer® e2™ the only super-premium battery.

("Wow! Super-premium! Gee, that's swell, Mr. Wizard. But, just how unique is the Energizer e2?" "I thought you'd never ask, Timmy...")

How unique is Energizer® e2™?
So unique that our scientists have 25 patents pending on Energizer® e2™, even on the packaging.

Again, I'm quoting this directly from Energizer's FAQ. I couldn't make this stuff up.

And, believe it or not, this rhetoric is actually toned down from last year, when the company was throwing out wild claims that these special titanium batteries would be "a leap in technology" able to last "up to 85 percent longer in high-tech devices than standard Energizers", while only costing "roughly 20%" more.*

Do you want to know the dirty truth of the matter?

Well, for one thing, these aren't "Titanium batteries" at all (a fact that seems to be carefully omitted from all of the press and PR copy). They're actually Zinc-Manganese Dioxide batteries, exactly the same as all other alkaline batteries except for an extra additive that (apparently) contains some secret form of titanium that slightly alters its chemical efficiency.

What you're really paying for when you buy these batteries is the glitzy packaging, which includes a built-in tester, a recloseable plastic case, and enough reflective silver paint to cause epileptic shock.

What you're probably not paying for is better value and performance. "85%" is a hopelessly exaggerated figure; all the indepedent tests I've found show that the new batteries are only going to last about 30% longer at most, and that's only in high-drain gadgetry like digital cameras and PDAs. In lower-tech devices, like walkmen or flashlights, the benefit will probably be marginal-to-unnoticeable, much less than the batteries' added cost. Simply put, you'd probably be better off burning through a whole bunch of the regular alkalines instead of switching to more-expensive Titaniums and getting less than you paid for.

Now, if you have money to throw around and you really want a great battery, I suggest you make the jump directly to disposable lithium batteries, which actually are cutting edge technology, and an amazing improvement over the alkaline system.

(Of course, if you were really smart, you'd have already switched over to NiMh rechargeables... But that's a whole 'nuther story...)

* = quotes from St. Louis Business Journal, 6/12/00 (http://stlouis.bcentral.com/stlouis/stories/2000/06/12/story7.html)
other sources: energizer.com, techtv.com, stlouis.bcentral.com, backpacker.com

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