What Happened to “B” Batteries?

August 18, 2015

battery 22119 640We’ve all heard of the different sizes of batteries; AA, AAA, C, and D.  But what happened to the B size battery, and did it ever even exist?

The B size battery did in fact, at one point, exist.  Early on there were many different manufacturer specifications for dry-cell batteries and many different national standards, so the naming of batteries was far from uniform.  After World War I, battery manufacturers and different governmental institutions decided a standard needed to be developed for battery sizes to make things a lot easier in the world of batteries.

Based on the proposals by these different groups, the American Standards Association, which would later become the American National Standards Institute (ANSI),  gave batteries designations based on their size in the late 1920s, with A being the smallest, and larger batteries being named B, C, D, etc.   There was even a “No. 6” battery that was 6-inches long.  It got grandfathered into the system and got to keep its name, likely because it was popular at the time.  It was also one of the first dry cell batteries to replace the, often more dangerous, early “wet cell” batteries.

B AA battery
The B Battery Next to a AA Battery Lead holder/Wikimedia

The B battery’s fade into obscurity really happened because the market for them just simply dried up.  With the designation of AA, and later AAA that happened in 1959, the B battery didn’t have a consumer niche to keep them commercially viable.  C and D batteries found their way into products with more energy demands, and AA and AAA batteries found their way into smaller devices that suited their energy output.  There was just no more room, or need, for the B battery.

Even though the B battery had to take a ride to the dustbin, the current designation system of batteries is far from being simple, however.  There are 1/2 AA batteries which are used in small electronics, AAAA which are used in calculators or pen flashlights.  Then you can get into the designations for the non-cylindrical types, such as the common 9-volt battery.  There are camera batteries and button cell batteries with the international designation of CR, which indicates a lithium manganese dioxide chemistry type battery.  There’s also an SR designated battery, which uses silver oxide chemistry in button cell type batteries.  This isn’t even taking into account that these are international designations whereas the ANSI names are slightly different.  This makes the world of batteries confusing once again.  Many of these batteries are sure to join the B battery as something that once was.

About the author 

Daniel Ganninger - The writer, editor, and chief lackey of Knowledge Stew, the author of the Knowledge Stew line of great trivia books, and editor of Fact World and the Knowledge Stew sister site on Medium. I hope you find things here to annoy those around you with your new found knowledge.

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