This is the ultimate guide to vape batteries.
Have you ever wondered what kind of batteries vapes use?
If so, you may have also wondered …
Does size matter?
What are the best batteries to use on your mod?
Are Li-on batteries safe to use?
Then, you love this simple but comprehensive guide to Li-ion batteries.
Let’s dive in.
Normally, the batteries used in vapes are Lithium batteries. Or simply Li-on batteries, referring to their chemical composition (More on that later). Lithium batteries are different from the normal AA or AAA you can get from the store.
Unlike AA or AAA batteries, Li-on batteries can provide more current required for vaping. Besides, Li-on batteries are lightweight and rechargeable.
Okay, so can you use regular batteries like AA for vapes?
To some extent yes, but not very economical. Here’s why:
Imagine a 50watt vaporizer running on one 18650 Li-on battery. Since I = P/V, that means the current to be drawn from the battery is about 13.5 amps. That would be okay for a sufficiently rated 18650 battery.
However, that wouldn’t be the case for AA batteries. AA batteries will have trouble providing 0.5 amps let alone 13.5 amps. In fact, you will require about 75 AA batteries to reliably provide that kind of power.
75 batteries! That means 25 parallel strings of three batteries. D batteries wouldn’t do better either. In part, because they are heavy and expensive.
Types of Lithium Batteries
There several types of lithium batteries. Here, we’ll classify according to:
- Active materials -Chemistries
Generally, vape batteries are housed in two ways:
Simply, these are batteries that are not built-in to your mod. They are charged externally using a charger. For example, 18650 batteries.
Best of all, the external batteries are very economical. Rather, than replacing the whole mod, external batteries can be replaced at the end of their life cycle.
Interestingly, internal batteries preceded external in the vaping scene.
In fact, the first time e-cigarettes came along they were simple devices. They were just little devices with in-built batteries.
To charge it, you just had to screw to a USB charger until it turns green. Turning green indicated that the battery was full.
Unlike, external batteries, these batteries are foolproof. Thus, battery compatibility is guaranteed.
So, what materials make up a Li-on battery?
Let’s look at the composition of a battery. A battery comprises of three parts: the cathode (+), the anode (-) and the electrolyte.
Basically, the anode of all lithium cells is the same: carbon/ silicon and graphite. In the cathode, however, is where the cells differ. Materials that make up the cathode are what make each lithium battery unique.
Lithium batteries are predominantly named in three letter codes or abbreviations. Three letter codes are easier to remember than longer naming convections. Thus, it has become the standard way to names different cells.
For example, LCO is used as the abbreviation for Lithium Cobalt Oxide. Cobalt is the main active material thus the character CO. Other Li-on cells follow the same nomenclature.
Typically, ICR (LiCoO2) and IMR (LiMn) are the most common in vapes. But, we’ll also look at hybrids like INR ( LiNiMnCoO2). INR is actually a hybrid of nickel and magnesium.
Let’s look at all these different chemistries here:
ICR – Lithium Cobalt Oxide Cylindrical cell
I = Lithium-ion
C = Cobalt oxide cathode
R = Round cell type
ICR’s can also be abbreviated as LiCoO2 or LCO or Li-cobalt.
The major shortcoming of ICR is the short life span and limited loading capabilities. Lithium plating and thickening on the anode while fast charging or charging limits its life cycle.
Besides, a Li-cobalt with 2400mAh can only be charged and discharged at 2400mAh. You should not charge or discharge it at a current higher than its C-rating. Overheating and undue stress could result when you force a fast charge.
To improve longevity, nickel, manganese, and aluminum (or a combination of both manganese and aluminum) are used.
Due to the high cost of cobalt, ICRs are losing favor to NMCs and NCA.
IMR – Lithium Manganese Oxide Cylindrical cell
I = Lithium-ion
M = Manganese oxide
R = round cell type
LiMn2O4 or LMO or Li-Manganese can also be used to abbreviate IMR.
Li-manganese cells have a 3-dimensional spinel structure for better ion flow. Hence, the cell has a lower internal resistance and improved loading capabilities. In addition, the cell has higher thermal stability and enhanced safety.
On the flipside, however, the cells life cycles are reduced.
Unlike ICRs, you can easily fast charge and discharge a Li-manganese battery. Take a 18650 Li-manganese battery for instance.
A 18650 Li-manganese battery can be discharged at a current of 20-30 A with moderate heat buildup.
IMRs flexible design enables optimization of the battery for max current load and improved life cycles. This is made possible by combining both manganese and nickel to form INR.
INR – Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide cylindrical cell
I = Lithium-ion
N =Nickel/ Manganese Oxide Cathode
R= Round Cylindrical cell
INRs can also be referred to as LiNiMnCoO2 or NMC.
INRs are top of the cream batteries. It combines the high energy capability of nickel with the safer and low resistance of manganese.
But, there catch.
INR batteries draw inspiration from the table salt analogy. And how’s that? You may ask.
The main ingredients of table salt are sodium and chloride. Spoiler! Here is where it gets interesting.
Sodium and chloride are poisonous on their own. But, when mixed they form what we call seasoning salt which is used as a food preservative.
You might have realized that batteries are sometimes referred to as 18650, 18350 and so on. Well, these numbers refer to the sizes of the cells.
For example, let’s say the size of your battery is 18650. That means the battery is 18mm in diameter and 65mm in length. You should keep in mind that’s only the dimensions for a naked cell. After wrapping, the battery can be 2-3mm longer and 0.5mm wider.
Simply put, DDLLT is the battery naming convection where DD stands for diameter, LL is the length and T is the type. Hence, a 18650 battery is a type 0 (round). However, there can be a variation in size between manufacturers. Even with a bare cell.
Sometimes, you might come across a battery named RCR123 whereas the primary cell is CR123A. That ‘R’ at the front means rechargeable.
What’s the best battery for your mod?
Now, you’ve already come across different batteries in terms of housing, chemistries, and sizes. You can start thinking about the right battery for you.
Currently, most vapers lean towards quality IMR batteries. IMR batteries are less volatile and safer to handle than ICR. They’re generally designed for high drain devices.
If you’re into sub-ohm vaping, you’ll definitely love them.
But… a big but (oops!). It is most advisable to always use batteries recommended by your vape’s manufacture
What’s with protected and unprotected batteries?
Li-on batteries, especially ICRs, are very powerful and volatile. They tend to explode in a very violent way when they fail.
As a result, ICR batteries have an electronic circuit integrated into them. The circuit protects the battery against over charge, over discharging, short-circuiting and temperature change. That way, protected batteries are safer for high drain vaping.
There are three types of protection:
- PTC (Positive Temperature Co-efficient) – Increases cell resistance as temperature increases. Thus, PTC protects the battery against overheating directly or indirectly over the current.
- CTD (Current Interruption Device) / Pressure Valve – Protects the battery against high pressure. If pressure increases, CTD disconnects the internal positive from the external positive pole based on the battery’s internal pressure.
- PCB (Protection Circuit board) –It’s the most common type of protection in vaping batteries. Normally, PCB is the small strip of metal fitted at the base of the battery. The strip of metal runs from the battery’s positive pole to a protection circuit board under the wrapper.
PCB protects the battery against overcharging, discharging and over-current. If the battery’s PCB protection is stripped the battery can be rendered useless. Note that although PCBs are designed to reset, they don’t always do.
Typically, unprotected batteries do not have these protections. Hence, better current handling capabilities.
An example is the IMR battery.
However, like all Li-on batteries, IMRs are still subject to thermal runaway. Thermal runaway is caused by overheating and overcharging.
Then, why are IMR batteries unprotected?
First, IMRs are not as volatile as ICRs. While IMRs still explode, they do so less spontaneously. Instead of ‘fast explosions’ like ICRs often do, IMRs just vents unquenchable flame and poisonous gas.
Yes, poisonous gas!
The layer separators found inside a li-on (both primary and secondary) form hydrogen fluoride and perflouroisobutylene (PFIB) when degraded by heat.
Hydrogen fluoride can be very toxic. The colorless gas forms hydrofluoric acid when it comes into contact with any moisture. Just imagine the damage it would cause to your lungs when inhaled.
What’s a thermal runaway?
A thermal runaway can be defined as a repeating cycle in which excessive heat causes more heat until the operation seizes or an explosion occurs.
In most cases, vape batteries explode.
In simpler terms, a thermal runaway is a chemical reaction inside the battery resulting from increased temperatures. The reaction makes the battery hot, fueling a reaction which makes the battery hotter and hotter as the cycle repeats itself.
Then oxygen is released as pressure builds up in the cell. The oxygen reacts with the flammable electrolyte and then explodes.
In ICR batteries, this reaction happens faster due to the composition of the cobalt cathode and their high energy density. IMRs, on the other hand, tend to vent with a flame instead of exploding. The flame easily burns itself out.
Ways to avoid a thermal runaway
- Avoid overcharging
- While sub-ohming use the right coils to avoid drawing more amps than the battery
- Avoid using chargers that trickle charges
- Stack batteries carefully. Stacking batteries that are not carefully paired can cause cross charging to the forward battery. As a result, all batteries involved a rise in temperature and enter a chain reaction.
- Allow batteries to rest for some time after charging before using them.
- Only use married batteries i.e. batteries you bought at the same time. Never use an old battery together with a new one.
You might have across AW batteries. What are they? Why do mod manufacturers recommend them?
AW is actually initials of Andrew Wan. He is a Chinese battery reseller with a company in Hong Kong. His company has been reselling batteries since 2006.
Does his company manufacture batteries?
No. Andrew’s company doesn’t manufacture batteries. You can look at it as a quality assurance company.
Andrew buys batteries from premium companies. Then, he tests those batteries for quality performance. Once, they pass his rigorous testing, Andrew wraps the batteries with his logo.
But, why can’t you find information on his company online? Does he have a website?
"Andrew Wan is a good guy and has been part of the flashlight hobbyist community for years. His reputation is rock-solid"
- E-cigarette forum
Note that Andrew Wan doesn’t have a website. He sells his batteries via mail which makes it quite a headache to buy directly from him.
In addition, due to the popularity of AW batteries, they’re many AW fakes around. Always be on the lookout while you’re buying AW batteries. Tip: Avoid eBay.
If you still in doubt about a vendor, contact Andrew Wan directly through his email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chargers and Charging
Currently, they are several types of chargers available to vapers. Smart chargers are the safest.
Smart chargers have multiple modes and safety feature which have over-discharge and overvoltage protection.
Most importantly, chargers can also identify Li-ion, Ni-MH, and Ni-Cd and select the right charging mode for you.
GET quality chargers HERE
Here’s a quick rundown of terms you need to understand before charging:
- Capacity –the measure of charge stored in the battery determined by the mass of active material in the battery.
It’s measured in milliamps hour (mAH)
- Amp limit –the maximum continuous current rating of a battery. It tells how much current you can safely draw from the battery.
- C-rating – C refers to coulombs. C-rate is the charge/discharge of a battery in relation to the capacity of the battery.
C-rate tells you the maximum safe continuous discharge rate of a battery. If you see 10C on your battery, it means that battery can be discharged at 10 times that’s cell capacity.
Take a 3.7v 2000Mah 10C battery for instance
2000 milliamps = 2 amps
2 amps *10 = 20 amps continuous discharge
Hence, you can safely draw up to 20 amps continuously without harming your battery.
The battery says 3.7V, but people say it’s 4.2V. How true is this?
Okay, a fully charged secondary battery is 4.2V. But, 3.6V is the actual nominal voltage for ICR while it’s 3.8V for IMR batteries.
Keep in mind, you should not overcharge your batteries above 4.25V or discharge 18650 battery below 3.2 V. Discharging your battery below 3.3V will reduce your battery capacity and the number of life cycles.
Some years back batteries came built-in to your mod. But, recently external batteries have been dominating the vape market. You’ll be a step ahead of most vapers with this information
This article will guide you while selecting the right battery for your mod. Remember to stay safe while handling Li-on batteries.
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