18650 Batteries / Chargers

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There are hundreds of 18650 batteries out there, different brands and various capacities, but how do you know if they are any good? Most seem to be well short of the claimed capacity.
The problem seems to be that most manufacturers will test at a current of 0.2 x Capacity, whereas in normal use the current will be more like 1 - 2A. 

So, just as Top Gear has the Stig, I have enlisted the help of Sparky to guide us through the jungle of Lithium 18650 batteries. 

Sparkys Magic Box


Designed to discharge at a constant 1A or 2A, batteries are tested under realistic loads.

A number of batteries actually exceeded their claimed capacity but Ultrafire proved to be pretty dire as expected. The 2400mAh protected and 2600mAh performed reasonably well, coming out well ahead of the supposedly higher capacity offerings. 


What wasn't expected was under the wrapper of Ultrafire 3000mAh, 3600mAh and 4000mAH a shiny new cap has been fitted. When this is removed, it is clear that they are reclaimed laptop batteries. The spot welds of the tabs can be seen on the base and positive terminal. In the example below, they haven't even bothered to remove all of the tab:

Or, even worse, are batteries that look like 18650...but aren't:
In this case, an 08500 battery concealed in an 18650 outer.


How each battery performed: 
The tests were conducted at room temperature(~20c) from 4.2v to 2.75v. This resulted in lower capacity results for some, like Sanyo 2800mAh and 3000mAh, Samsung 2800 and 3000mAh and Panasonic 3100mAh, which are designed to be charged to 4.3 or 4.35v and discharge down to 2.5v.

Torchy 3400mAh
 Efest 3400mAh protected
Torchy 3100mAh
 AW 3100mAh Protected
 EagleTac 3100mAh Protected
Torchy 2600mAh

LG 2200mAh
Lezyne 2400mAh Protected
Panasonic 2250mAh CGR18650CG
Panasonic 2900mAh NCR18650
Panasonic 3100mAh NCR18650A


Efest 2600mAh protected

Samsung 2600mAh
Samsung 2800mAh
Sanyo 2250mAh
Sanyo 2600mAh
Sanyo 2800mAh
Sanyo 3000mAh
Xtar 2400mAh Protected
 Xtar 2600mAh Protected
Xtar 3100mAh Protected
Trustfire 2400mAh Protected
Trustfire 2500mAh
Trustfire 2500mAh Protected
Trustfire 3000mAh Protected
Ultrafire 2400mAh Protected
Ultrafire 2400mAh
Ultrafire 2600mAh

Ultrafire 2600mAh Protected
Ultrafire 3600mAh Protected(Yellow)
Uniquefire 2400mAh Protected
It gets really bad from here on:
Ultrafire 4200mAh

Ultrafire 4000mAh Protected
Ultrafire 3600mAh Protected (Black)
Ultrafire 3000mAh Protected (red/silver)
Ultrafire 3000mAh (red/white)


18650 Battery chargers
Xtar, Ultrafire and Trustfire chargers have been found to be better quality than others on the market so far. Internal fusing, good separation between 240v and DC sides, 3 pin plug and CE marked. Xtar even sent copies of their CE certification.

However, just  because a charger has a CE mark and a 3 pin plug is no guarantee of quality, or safety.  I suspect that Chinese manufacturers will apply the CE mark to their product whether they have achieved the standard or not. 

When one charger exploded, internal inspection suggests the CE mark on the back is totally meaningless:

3 pin plug
 CE Mark
Scorched after the bang
240v supply almost touching DC circuit on pcb!
Diode carrying 240v almost touching battery plate!
Tails on LEDs left too long - almost shorting!
Transistor splitting!

This looks like a compilation of horrors from several chargers, but were all inside one CE marked unbranded charger.