When browsing for dash cams, you’ve probably come across product descriptions talking about supercapacitors or lithium-ion batteries. These are the two most common power sources that are used in modern dash cams. But there is a stark difference between the two and its important to understand the difference when buying a dash cam.
Let’s set the expectations for dash cam batteries. The vast majority of batteries in dash cams should not be expected to continually power the device. The primary use for most batteries is to provide just enough power to the device when the vehicle is turned off and stops providing power to the dash cam. The dash cam needs that extra bit of power in order to properly shut off and finish tasks like saving files.
A battery is device that consists of an electrochemical cell that can be electrically charged and released. A battery consists of an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte. Dash cam batteries are typically lithium-ion batteries, which means they are rechargeable. In the majority of dash cams, lithium-ion batteries are typically found in inexpensive dash cams.
As a general rule, batteries are more prone to leakage, swelling that decreases its reliability and longevity. Batteries are susceptible to hot weather and has the increased probability of it malfunctioning which will ruin your device. But just because the battery is cheaper, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into. If you do not live in extreme weather, hot or cold, than you may consider a lithium-ion powered dash cam.
When I mentioned that most inexpensive dash cams were powered with lithium-ion, there are always exceptions to the rule. There are some high end dash cams that use lithium-ion and can power your dash cam throughout the night using its own battery.
To understand what a supercapacitor is, one must first understand what a capacitor is. A capacitor stores electrical charge between two metal plates and can discharge energy at any point. A supercapacitor is different as it can be charged and discharged continuously. It has a large capacitance which means more charge can be stored and can provide more charge faster.
In terms of its applicability to dash cams, a supercapacitor is found on more expensive dash cams. The main reason is due to the fact that it is more heat resistant. You can expose the supercapacitor to extreme heat and not worry about battery degradation or it exploding. Opposite to a lithium-ion battery, supercapacitors are better known to last longer and are more reliable.
The downside to capacitors is that they don’t hold a charge for long which should be fine if you are hardwiring your dash cam.
Which is better, capacitor or battery?
A capacitor should be prioritized over a battery in most instances. Capacitors are more reliable, withstand high temperatures and are less likely to fail. Extreme weather is definitely a consideration when deciding on a dash cam as it is commonly placed on a windshield in direct sunlight. Car cabins can reach high temperatures quickly and you’ll need a device that can withstand the heat. This is the main reason why more premium dash cam brands choose capacitors over batteries.
As technology improves, capacitors will increase their capacitance, or the amount of charge they can hold. This means in a few years it is likely that capacitors will be able to power dash cams for longer periods of time.
What is a capacitor dash cam?
A capacitor dash cam is a dash cam that uses a capacitor instead of a lithium-ion battery. This difference means a capacitor dash cam is less prone to high heat temperatures and is generally more reliable.
We recommend looking for capacitor dash cams in general, but there are cases where you’ll need a lithium-ion battery.
How long do dash cam batteries last?
Dash cam batteries can last 5 to 10 years, if it is properly maintained. The reason why a lot of dash cam devices aren’t used longer isn’t usually due to battery failure, but due to the advancement of technology. Dash cam technology has advanced so fast that better image quality, specifications and features have been implemented in such a short time. Resolution has increased dramatically. A lot of people willingly upgrade to obtain these features.
Dash cam batteries aren’t mean to power your device when your car is off. You’ll need to tap into your car’s battery or have an external power source if you need that functionality.
Will a dash cam drain battery?
If the dash cam is hard wired to the vehicle, then yes, the dash cam will draw power from the car battery. Many hardwire kits have a low voltage cutoff mechanism that will stop drawing car battery power when low.
A dash cam won’t have the ability to drain the internal battery as most lithium-ion and supercapacitor dash cams aren’t designed to power a dash cam without external power.