Revenge of the battery hack - 32 AAs inside a 6v Lantern Battery. BUT IS IT PHONEY?!

By Paul Michael on 18 September 2007 (Updated 18 August 2011) 60 comments

Ok, there's not really much that I can say to top this one. After the amazing work that Kipkay did over at Metacafe, the folks at gagfilms have gone one better. They've discovered not 10 or even 20 but 32 AA batteries inside a standard 6v battery. Yup, I'm floored.

NOTE: One astute guest has pointed out that this could be all a bunch of hokum, which I fell for like so many others out there on the web. I hacked up my 6v battery and found 4 1.5v batteries inside. If you are willing to hack up yours and tell us what you find, I'd love to get to the bottom of this one.

As a rule, I don't usually like to post just one video in isolation but this one deserves it. And I found a battery like this one for just $1.99 in my local hardware store. I think that equates to around 7 measly cents per battery. Did I just hear parents everywhere rejoice?


And here's a guy experiencing just what happened to me...

What is surprising me more though (although it probably shouldn't) is the way the battery industry seems to be pulling the wool over our eyes. Why does a simple 2-pack of AA batteries cost anywhere from $2-$5, when they are obviously so cheap to produce? No wonder the Energizer bunny can keep going and going, it's costing almost nothing to replace the power source. And Duracell, a Proctor & Gamble company, generates over $1 billion a year from the sale of just AA batteries. Indeed, the humble AA seems to be the backbone of the battery industry.

So, I did a little digging. Actually, a lot of digging. In total around six hours of web-surfing and phone calls and came up with nothing. No-one wants to talk to me about the production costs of batteries, and a recent theft of trade secrets at Duracell has the industry very, very wary indeed.

At this point I'm throwing it over to you. Do you know anyone who works in the battery industry? DO you know why they can sell 32 AAs for $1.99, hidden inside a 6v shell, and then sell just 2 AAs for around the same price? Is this just the way the battery industry works and if they changed things the prices would go up? I have way too many questions and no answers. But until I get them, I'm getting all my AAs from inside a 6v lantern battery. It's going to save me quite a pretty penny.

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Guest's picture
Dustin

I don't know much about today's battery industry, and this comment isn't specifically addressed to the pricing policies of batteries, but related enough, I think. My grandmother used to work in a battery factory in Wisconsin (back when stuff was still made in the US...). They made blank batteries like the ones that fill the 6V, which were then wrapped in a variety of labels: RayOVac, Duracell, etc. WHich is to say, there was no difference in the batteries sold by different brands -- they were exactly the same, even though some brands were cheap and others expensive.

Since then, some new technologies have been introduced, like batteries specifically for electronics, that I assume are proprietary, so maybe this doesn't go on as much anymore (though I doubt it: like everything else, I'm sure batteries are made in a handful of Chinese factories that contact out to all the major companies).

Guest's picture
Dustin

I don't know much about today's battery industry, and this comment isn't specifically addressed to the pricing policies of batteries, but related enough, I think. My grandmother used to work in a battery factory in Wisconsin (back when stuff was still made in the US...). They made blank batteries like the ones that fill the 6V, which were then wrapped in a variety of labels: RayOVac, Duracell, etc. WHich is to say, there was no difference in the batteries sold by different brands -- they were exactly the same, even though some brands were cheap and others expensive.

Since then, some new technologies have been introduced, like batteries specifically for electronics, that I assume are proprietary, so maybe this doesn't go on as much anymore (though I doubt it: like everything else, I'm sure batteries are made in a handful of Chinese factories that contact out to all the major companies).

Andrea Karim's picture

I've had weird experiences with batteries. I understand that they are all made at the same factory, but buying store brand batteries once cost my middle school nerd brigade the national title in our nerdy robot competition.

Then again, it might have been a conspiracy on the part of the store to get us to buy the brand name batteries by selling expired store-brand batteries. Who knows?

Paul, remind me not to have kids. Or not to buy my kids toys that require batteries. Yup. Just some dolls made out of old socks or something.

Guest's picture
Guest

ever thought that 32 batteries don;t equal to 9volts?
and that they can;t fit in there?
and it's just kind of sarcasm?

Guest's picture
Guest

My God. I feel completely stupid not having thought of that before I took the time to research the legitimacy of that video. But then again ... I'm drunk right now.

Guest's picture
Guest

He said 6 Volts, not 9 Volts.

Guest's picture
Guest

it's a fake don't you think?

Paul Michael's picture

First, 32 batteries could actually fit snuggly inside the 6v housing, They would need to be arranged in 2 layers of 4x4. Second, I asked a few physics wizards that I know and they said that it is very possible to create a 6v battery from 32 AAs. It's all how you wire them together.

And that made me stop in my tracks. I didn't see any wiring in the box. So I took apart my 6v and found 4 1.5v batteries, not 32 AAs. But, does that mean this is fake or true? I suspect it may actually be fake after all, as the place is called gagfilms (boy, how did I miss that one?) so egg is now all over my face. Until I hear a definitive BS called on this, I'm hopeful it may still work. And I do think battery companies have a lot to hide. But as this mythbusters often say, this one's busted.

Nice catch guest, I'm the first to admit when I'm wrong and have edited the article accordingly.

Guest's picture

You're not the only one to fall for this gag in the name of science. I always wondered who bought all the 6 volt batteries. Now I think the battery company started this rumor to sell them to us! So don't feel too bad... You can laugh at me here:

http://pennypinscher.blogspot.com/2008/02/battery-hack-exposed.html

Science! :)

Guest's picture
melody

so I check this after I tear up my $7 6v and tear up my hands----there are 4 long c's in the energizer 6v---out 7 bucks and still have to buy AA!!!!!!

Guest's picture
rhkennerly

my Energizer Alkaline No 529 6 volt lantern battery has four 1.5 volt (1.5 times 4 = six volts) double length 'C' cell batteries (exactly the same length as two 'C' cells taped end to end, but completely metal clad with a press formed body and a rolled crimp at the + end.

You owe me a battery, I think. The things I do for "science"--big sigh.

Guest's picture

Your "double C" comment is funny. Those are "F" cells, the high aH (ampere-hour) lantern cells have four of those F cells in series, the lower aH ones have four "D" cells in series (big space gap in those cheaper ones).

Guest's picture
Brian Adler

This is only sorta related. My dad is an optometrist. I was amazed to learn years ago that disposable contact lens are no different than daily wear...The upshot is..Buy a short term supply of disposables...Be sure to do that protein soak bath treatment to keep them clean and clear and they will last you a very long time and save you tons of cash...

Guest's picture
Guest

Why not use rechargeable batteries? They've improve a lot over the years. They're best for the environment and the pocketbook.

Linsey Knerl's picture

That's exactly what I do!  I got the daily disposables and wore each one for longer than suggested.. (some would last a a few days, some would last a week.)  It was very cost effective... but on the flip-side, I also tried those that you can wear for 30 days and nights without any maintenance.. I LOVED THOSE.  So I would wear a pair for 30, take them out and let them rest, put in a new for 30 and switch back and forth... you could tell when they were ready for the trash.  My eye doctor knew and didn't care one way or another...

Paul Michael's picture

You're both spot on. I recently heard a story in which an optemetrist stood up at a contact lens convention and asked "so what's the difference between daily and monthly disposables?" to which the guest speaker replied "good question...do we have any other questions?" I'm paraphrasing of course, but the upshot is that there's really no difference at all. 

Guest's picture
Craig

It's feasible that there really are 32 AAs in there...wiring groups of 8 in parallel and then connecting them in series will give you 6V. They won't be alkalines, however, and the amount of power you're going to be able to pull from them isn't going to be up to the standards you're used to. Cheap generic non-alkalines can be bought online for $0.08 each in bulk or $0.13 each for 40: http://www.cheapbatteries.com/generic.htm

Guest's picture
Guest

I bought a Rayovac Heavy Duty 6V and after cutting open the plastic casing I found four D cell diameter batteries that were about 1 1/2 times the length of a normal D cell.

Upon further investigation, I have discovered that the 32 AA batteries can be found in the 6V available from Walgreens.

Guest's picture
Guest

Good job. You were right on target.
Some lantern batteries have AAs inside, some do not.
My problem is that after reading your post, I went to my local Walgreen store, and the store did not carry lantern batteries. I am now wondering about other sources. I see some mention of Walmart in the posts.

Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks
Bob

Guest's picture
tc

The question is why use AA's or C's, or other batteries to make up 6 Volt batteries? The answer is production run costs and simple economics.

I will tackle the latter answer first. The reason why AA's cost so much in comparison is because the market will pay it. Why should companies charge less, if we pay this amount?

I know it's simplified, but it is the bottom line.

Now to the more technical issue, production costs. The cost equation for a battery can be broken down into raw material costs, assembly costs, packaging costs, transportation costs (to get product to market), marketing costs, and finally any product mark-up along the way. As can be seen, the raw material and assembly costs are just a small part in the overall process.

The assembly line (at least the one I am familiar with, again back in Wisconsin) had three parts. The first part mixed the chemicals that make up the inner parts and fed into the battery case (i.e., assembly of the battery inards). The chemicals, depending on whether alkaline or normal are all the same, the only cost difference would be in the housing and other parts of the base battery, plus the volume that could be produced per hour. Now here is one of the cost savers when it comes to the 6 Volt. Larger Batch runs are more efficient than smaller batch runs (i.e., setup time for line factors in). If a line can produce a product for both AA's and 6 Volts, let's say, it would be more cost effective. There is no difference at this point, other than the small incremental cost of additional raw materials per battery for the 6 Volt. The raw material cost would most likely, however, be negligible compared to production run costs.

The second part of the assembly line is the wrapping. This is where as another person pointed out the Ray-O-Vac, Kmart, or Wal-mart, etc. label gets put on the battery. My guess is here there would be a little additional cost for this portion of the line, but as long as you can sequence your day/shift runs properly so as not have assembly machine down-time, you could have a proper queue on this segment of the line.

The final line segment in the plant is the bubble-pack line. This is where the batteries get packed into their end-market packaging (e.g., 4-Paks, 8 packs, etc.) and the packaging get put into boxes for shipping. This is where the AA's and AAA's have higher costs since there is more handling of the individual units as compared to 6 Volts where are packed directly into boxes (most likely -- I only worked on a study during college regarding the bubble-pack line of AA's and AAA's). So, here you would add an additional cost factor into the assembly process due to the additional machine and handling time the smaller batteries require.

I hope this helps in understanding the plant costs. I have no idea what the marketing and transportation costs may be.

Cheers,
TC

Paul Michael's picture

That's a great explanation. Much appreciated.

Guest's picture
Guest

One thing I noticed is that the original video compared 4 AA Alkaline batteries for $5 with one 6V Heavy-Duty for $5, and claimed that you could get substantial savings by using the 32 AA cells in the 6V battery as AA batteries.

The chemistry with Alkaline and Heavy-Duty cells is vastly different, and there's a reason why Energizer and DuraCel advertise on the long-life and high power of their batteries. The packaging always compares their performance to heavy-duty batteries.

Even if the 6V battery did have 32 AA Heavy Duty batteries, I wouldn't want to use them in my electronics, for they will surely lack the juice.

Guest's picture
Guest

opened a Duracell + got 4 branded D batteries,
opened an Eveready an got double sized cells.

What has the AAs?

Guest's picture
Guest

Even in the very earliest carbon zinc batteries for
lanterns, the size of the cells inside is what is called
"F" cells. Like an earlier poster here said, he found
cells about 1 1/2 times the length of "D" cells inside his Energizer, and 4 branded Duracell "D" cells inside a
Duracell battery. A good reason to buy Energizers instead of Duracells, because each is manganese dioxide
(alkaline) chemistry, but the Energizer has 1 1/2 times
the capacity of "D" cell Duracells. And Duracells often
cost more!!! Blind brand loyalty for some people, maybe???

Guest's picture
mac

hevyduty 6 v batterys from wallgreens have aa in them

Guest's picture
Guest

opened a Duracell + got 4 branded D batteries,
opened an Eveready an got double sized cells.

What has the AAs?

Guest's picture
Guest

To answer your question, the one that is used with metacafe is from Walgreens (it was noted by a previous post as well). In fact, here is a website http://www.dealcatcher.com/index.asp?v=8&m=1171&c=97093&o=1
to check it out. I haven't yet tried it, just discovered it tonight, but I plan to buy one of these and find out for myself. I'm not a tech geek, just a Mom with lots of toys to powerup.

Guest's picture
solak

Since each AA is nominally 1.5V, it takes four in series to reach 6V, but lantern batteries need amps to go with those volts in order to power the big devices. This could be done by wiring in parallel eight such groups of four. Batteries connected positive-to-negative will add their voltage but provide the same amperage (current). Batteries connected positive-to-positive and negative-to-negative will add their amperage but provide the same voltage.

Now, just because the physics and math work out, it does not mean that all (or even any) 6V lantern batteries are made this way, just that you cannot use that argument to prove that it's fake. You must actually cut open different brands to see whether the second video is typical. The first video shows that the wiring must be cut, but it does not show all of it in detail, and there's an edit point between that point and the dramatic dump onto the table. It certainly leaves me suspicious.

Guest's picture
Guest

I call shenanigans.
(1) For 32 AA to add to 6V you need 8 parallel groups of 4 AA in serial. Where are all the wires for that.
(2) It appears that the batteries that come out have glue residue on them, like from a label. Most clearly seen on the battery to the lower right.

Seems like someone gutted a lantern battery and put 32 AA's from which he removed the label.

Guest's picture
Guest

Here's another example of consumers paying what the market will post: I buy a LOT of AA batteries to power the quartz-movement promotional clocks that I build. In bulk, I pay about 40c each for Energizer ProCells; these coming from the same company where I purchase the clock movements. (That would average $1.60 a blister 4-pack.) Occasionally, I will have the same batteries sent to me for free (usually 15-20) when I've bought a large order of clock parts.

Guest's picture
Gloverspud

I agree with an earlier post, the video is probably completely faked. There is simply not enough wires or space to fit all the wires and batterys needed. Also on closer inspection of the video the batteries seem to start falling out slowly then it seems to jump to lots of falling out.

 But i guess if you needed 3v for something and only had a 6v then you could use what we have learnt and use that. 

 Steven

Guest's picture
Guest

I found the hard way that this hack is NOT TRUE! I too should have known better when I saw the "GAGFILMS.COM" production logo. I thought, maybe it is true, but sadly, it is NOT! Save your money and DO NOT TRY THIS HACK, unless you want to wast a perfectly good 6 volt battery and the money to buy it.

Guest's picture
Guest

hey guys i just thought what if.. they just put the 32s in columns and ten just did the parallel wiring in the base so then the could wire them parallel without wires running up and dwn the entire thing.

Guest's picture
Aaron

Where are the wires for the battery moron... To many batteries for just 2 wires.. FAKE

Guest's picture
Guest

I tried it with a Duracell 6V battery... I've got 4 D cells.

Guest's picture
Elliott

Same here, we got 4 branded D cells out of a Duracell Alkaline battery. An Eveready yielded the same results of that second "hoax" video, 4 cells longer than a D wired together (be careful removing them, shorting them together makes them hot and leak). Some 9V transistor batteries yield 6 AAAA cells while others have a stack of rectangular cells.

Guest's picture
Guest

I tried it with a Rayovac 6 Volt. There were 4 D-diameter batteries whose length were the height of the whole 6 Volt casing. So presumably, they were 1.5 V each.

Guest's picture
Paul

I just discovered if everyone that belives this hoax would cram a slotted screwdriver into the base of their cranium and pop off the top of their head they would find within 32 AA cell batteries.....minus the wiring.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you examine the video closely, you can see the batteries arranged all plus side up and then dumped upside down so that they land all minus side up. Even if you could fit them, stacked 4W x 4D x 2H, as shown, would yield a long lasting 3 volt battery. The orientation would have to alternate in such a way as to create 4 parallel sets of 4 AAs connected in series. Wires aren't necessary. Does your flashlight have wires? Since the video clearly shows the batteries aren't arranged correctly, whether they fit or not becomes secondary. If you freeze frame on the segment where the "wires" are supposedly cut, you can see too many batteries facing up, where half of them would need to face down. The real question is, did the gag meister do this on purpose? Or was he just not smart enough to be more convincing?

Guest's picture
AfroRican

As the following link will show you, Walgreen's does, in fact, sell store brand 6V lantern batteries. If you were unable to find one at your local sore, you may have to shop around town.

http://www.walgreens.com/search/search_results.jsp?_dyncharset=ASCII&ter...

Now whether or not it's true that they are loaded with batteries of various sizes as this link demonstrates,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBQDGvhr3kE&feature=related

is unknown to me. I tried the hack on an Energizer to no avail. But in the pursuit of truth, I will invest another $8 to try it on the Walgreen's store brand. Hey... $16 for 32 AA's comes out to $.50 per battery. Still one helluva deal in comparison to retail prices.

Guest's picture
Marketing Genius

It is the packaging that drives up the cost. The extras that go into each AA battery, such as the metal casings with all the fancy little graphics.
Each little 1.5 volt button cell on the shelf comes in its own package, and may cost around 2 bucks each. You can get one of the small 12 volt batteries, and find 8 1.5 volt buttons inside. This is because it is cheaper for the company to put eight 1.5 volt button batteries into one package, than it is 1 button per each package on the shelf. Less packing material = less expenses for the manufacturer (as well as the reseller, in terms of space).

Guest's picture
Guest

I just bought a Ray-O-Vac floatable lantern. It came WITH a 6V Heavy Duty Ray-O-Vac lantern battery for a measly $1.99 at a discount store. So heck no, ain't gonna cut the battery open.

The bulb though is a Krypton bulb. So I'm gonna cut that open, to get the Kryptonite.

Guest's picture
JoyT

Check out this website. You can see what is inside a lantern battery. Also, it's dangerous to disassemble batteries so be careful!

http://www.theodoregray.com/PeriodicTable/Stories/006.2/index.html

Guest's picture
Guest

I know a guy that tried it and it worked. But i tried it with an expensive battery and it did not work. I called the guy up and he said it MUST be a CHEAP battery in order to work.

Guest's picture
Mikey

I have taken many 6 volt lantern batteries apart of many brands to get the carbon rods out of the zinc carbon types. I have never seen AA's inside, only D's or the F size batteries. It would be a manufacturing nightmare to get 32 AA's wired together properly. One time I took a Rayovac 6 volt apart and found four Duracell D batteries inside complete with their built in battery testers but no nub on the positive side. Most cheap 6 volts are made in China now and if you look on the bottom you can see slight indents in the plastic that show where the separators are inside the battery that keep the four cells inside from touching.

Guest's picture
Mikey

I forgot one thing. I have taken apart both Rayovac heavy duty and standard lantern batteries. Though they both had four F sized batteries in them the batteries in the standard 6 volt were only filled 2/3 full of chemical between the carbon rod and zinc can. Why do you suppose they say the heavy duty battery lasts 50% longer?

Guest's picture
Guest

http://www.snopes.com/photos/humor/batteryhack.asp

This is a good 'description' ....

Guest's picture
travman

Very confusing, I too bought a 6 volt lantern battery with a plastic case and found 4 1.5v batteries. Just enough positive posts to make me wonder if it could be true or not. If someone actually found this to be true they need to compare the case and look for some sort of sign that we can use to determine the good from the bad. When I looked at the bottom of my battery case I did see clearly that four compartments were inside the battery. What does the bottom of a "AA" loaded lantern battery look like?

Guest's picture
Guest

A local radio station is taking one apart on the morning show tomorrow. I will post what we find out. I will also be getting a Walgreens battery to test the theory out. I have a 1 yr old so batteries are the households livelyhood right now.

Guest's picture
Guest

For what it's worth, if you happen to own a flashlight that takes 5 D cell batteries, and you tape TWO of the four you found in your 6 volt lantern battery so they fit close to the diameter of an actual D cell, putting one in first and the other in last, these longish four will fit the same length as the five did ! I paid $2.38 for one 6 volt that gave me these batteries for my Kel-light security flashlight.

Guest's picture
manny

sure you get a ton of AA's out of a 6v battery but keep in mind whats the Mah of these individual batteries, because thats what i pay for when i buy a duracell coppertop or an energizer lithium. but if you really want aa's that badly head over to the 99 cent store where you can buy a bran new pack of crappy aa's that wont last 2 days.

Guest's picture
chris

just dismantled my 6v and found 4 1.5v

Guest's picture
Guest

Check what is inside a battery power drill. If it is an 18Volt drill the battery pack will have 12 rechargeable double A batteries inside...Open up a worn out one.

Guest's picture
Geoff

I just tried this with an everready lantern battery. NO AA cells at all! Just 4 supersize cells about the same diameter as a D cell but about 1 1/2 times as long. Maybe other brands are different, but I'm not going to bother. Lame.

Guest's picture
Guest

I see people are still killing innocent 6v batteries over this. Do the math people, if there were 32 1.5volt batteries wired up inside the battery total would be 48v, not 6v. No surprise there are 4 1.5v batteries in there (4 x 1.5 = 6).

Guest's picture
GuestSam

So I fell for the whole GAG also,, but, I decided to try and find out if my money was truely wasted, NOT, 2 of the cell's from the 6 volt pack, will take the place of 3 D cell batteries in my Mag lite. they are just slightly shorter than the 3 combined ,but the spring tensioner took up the play fine............

Guest's picture

Obviously, the 6v battery that contains 4 x 1.5 D cells is a commonly known configuration called "babushka batteries" or "matryoshka batteries" also known as Russian nesting/nested batteries, which refer to a set of dry cells of decreasing size placed one inside the other. Now, cut open each 1.5v and see what's inside!

Guest's picture

Unless I missed the comment, I am wondering why nobody on this thread isn't wondering why there are 4 cylinders and not just one huge one? Applying the same rationale why there are four cylinders, it is quite conceivable that 32 batteries could have been placed inside the 6v cover.

To embellish on the manufacturing process described here, I am going to guess that by having one huge cylinder would require too much time in the manufacturing process to "charge" one huge glob instead of smaller globs. And that the release of energy my be more efficient producing less heat and thereby having the charge last longer with several cylinders and in the case where there were 32 batteries, each cell could have been 0.187 v x 32 = 6v. Was the size of each of the 32 aa's compared to the actual size of a 32 aa? Perhaps they were a bit smaller? And would contribute all that none sense to the good old surface area phenomenon.

Guest's picture
scribblerlarry @yahoo.ca

You can determine which 6v lantern batteries have the 32 AA batteries in by checking how round the corners of the 6v battery are. The very rounded ones are the flashlight batteries and the almost square cornered ones have the AA batteries in them.

.