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  1. #1
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    18650 Li-ion Batteries: Discussion "2012"

    As most people on the light forum know, I spend a lot of time discussing torches. The cells that are used in these torches are usually Li-ion and are sized as, "18650 ".

    For some reason the subject of Li-ion batteries always engenders "Lively discussion", to put it mildly. Since bike lights in general usually come with battery packs that use Li-ion cells I thought I would bring the subject up again so people get to air their opinions and to learn what new options are being offered.

    Last night while perusing one of the many Ching-bling sites I came across a new offering from UltraFire. It seems UltraFire now offers a 4000mAh 18650 cell ( see Link ). Having never seen this offering before I surfed around to see if could find some info. Unfortunately not too much information out there for this new cell right now. Even CPF ( Candle Power Forum ) seemed not to have any information on this new cell. I could only find two reviewers who had the cell. It just so happened that both were happy with the UF 4000mAh.

    Still I continued digging. Lots of information on CPF concerning 18650 cells. The reviews you see on CPF are quite extensive and require some patience just to sift through all the information. Usually the tests are done by people who have access to a battery analyzer. They than chart the results that are usually done under a couple different current loads so you can see the resultant Amp hour rating. Surprisingly ( or not surprisingly if you may ) not many of the cells tested accurately reflect the claimed mAh rating printed on the cell. Of course some do better than others hence the reason for the comparisons.

    I usually steer towards the cells that rate "middle of the road" because usually they are the better "Bang for the buck". My favorite over the last couple years has been the
    UltraFire (red) 2600mAh. Running a close second has been the TrustFire ( black/red/fire ) 2400mAh cells. There are of course better cells out there but some of them can be quite expensive...( $15- $20+ per cell ).

    Since the new UltraFire 4000's seem to be liked by the few reviewers I have come across I've decided to buy a couple myself to see if they are as good as the few have said. Unfortunately I don't have access to a battery analyzer or a wide array of different battery brands to compare to. Still using just my mult-meter and measuring the current values at different run times I should get a decent understanding on whither of not these new cells measure up. I've also decided to buy a lux meter because it can help to judge how bright an LED output actually is, something I wanted for quite a long time.

    Anyway, I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. $14.40 is a good price for two cells, especially if they beat out the current "middle of the road" offering.

    Anyone with any information or opinion please feel free to chime in.

  2. #2
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    no info for you but very curious to see how these cells work out for you. that could make some serious runtime battery packs.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Der Juicen View Post
    no info for you but very curious to see how these cells work out for you. that could make some serious runtime battery packs.
    Oh I don't pretend to think that the actual Ah rating will be anything near the claimed 4000mAh. However if it can just slightly beat out the UltraFire 2600 and 3000mAh cells currently on the market that would be fantastic. Add to that if it can beat out or equal something like the Panasonic 2900mAh cells...that would go beyond my wildest dreams. However, I'll not be holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

    ...Which is not to say that it couldn't happen. In one of the CPF comparisons, The Tenergy 2600 mAh cell ( Cyan ) was able to equal almost exactly what the highly rated AW 2600mAh cell was able to do so basically it can happen. Tenergy, very highly rated on CPF in the past just so happens to be manufactured in China. I think this is also one of the reasons why you are beginning to see prices on the better Japanese and Korean cells begin to drop ever so slightly. The battery wars have begun.

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    From what I've read, the only 3000mAh cells are Panasonics (and Sanyos?). Anything else is "fake". I think most of them don't perform well at all. HKJ seems to have a good review site. I've been happy with my Callies Kustoms.

    I buy whatever the reviews claim are good. I worry about battery safety.
    Last edited by LiveFreeThenDie; 01-31-2012 at 02:09 AM.

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    These cells have been popping up since summer of last year. I have seen posts where they wouldn't run some torches with the protection circuit still on the cells. Other say that there are such variations in the cells that they are not stable for multicell applications. From what I have come across they seems to be getting rated at about 2000-2400mAh. It is possible to achieve the 4000 number but you are going to have to have something that draws about 1mA of power. That isnt obviously going to happen when most high powered lights pull 1.5 or higher etc. Nonetheless if the price was great and you use in single cell lights you should be fine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LiveFreeThenDie View Post
    From what I've read, the only 3000mAh cells are Panasonics (and Sanyos?). Anything else is "fake". I think most of them don't perform well at all. HKJ seems to have a good review site. I've been happy with my Kallies Customs.

    I buy whatever the reviews claim are good. I worry about battery safety.
    When it comes to batteries there seems to be lots of "shell game tactics" going on. Take your Kallies Customs for instance. Yes, they are great batteries. That is because they are actually Panasonic cells. So basically KC buys the Panasonics and puts their own label on them and sells them as "Kallies Customs". What kind of crap is that? They're not the only ones doing it. Lots of different brands using Panasonic cells with their own wrapper. This kind of stuff just gets my goat.

    Yes, there are other brands claiming to be 3000mAh. No they don't quite hit that mark but that doesn't make them fake. Even the Panasonics don't quite hit the mark although they do come closer then anyone else I am aware of. Do the Chinese stretch the truth about their batteries?....absolutely! Just like the manufactures who make bike lights, so what else is new? Yes, Panasonic is one of the best brands but others are starting to come close to the same level. The Redilast cells are just one example.

    I'm sure the UltraFire 4000mAh cells are grossly over-rating their capacity. This doesn't make them fake. It just means they lie a bit more than the others....
    The real issue as far as I'm concerned is " Are they better than the previous offerings from UltraFire"? If they are than they are worth the $7.20 per cell.

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    that's not crap Cat, that's KC designing their own protection circuit and adding it to the batteries themselves. The PCB has a huge effect on the useability and safety of the cell and the KC ones are supposed to be the best in the business. Just look at the hoo ha with intl.outdoors protected Panasonics ($13 each) - the PCB overdischarge was set ridiculously low (1.8A?) and so tripped any time someone put one in a decent XM-L torch. That's what you're paying the money for.

    If you want the highest capacity, get Panasonic NCR18650/A cells (2900/3100mAh) - I've personally tested a couple and that can take a 4A charge and still give 2900mAh capacity. Knock the current down to 1A (charge or discharge) and I got >3050mAh consistently. These were replacements for some Ultrafire 2500 cells that couldn't supply 1A per cell reliably.

    If you want to save some pennies, I'd go with the Xtar 2600 on BLF for $14 a pair. They get good reviews, are based on Sanyo cells and get lots of repeat orders. If you don't want protection, it's easy enough to find the bare cells for ~$7 a cell.

    I personally wouldn't touch another *fire cell again. Even when you get a reasonably honest capacity (like those Ultrafire 2500 which were ~2250mAh), they're just unuseable in high current drain lights. As for that Ultrafire 4000mAh - you're having a laugh, right?

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    I second the recommendations on the Panasonic 2900mAH. All the testing I've done says they meet or exceed spec with a load in the 1.5Amp range. The price differential to go up to the 3100mAH isn't anywhere close to justified at this point, in my opinion, although I'm sure that day is coming.

  9. #9
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    you know, I couldn't find the NCR18650 (2900mAh) cells for much less than the A version, perhaps a dollar a cell less. Certainly the capacity per dollar is better for the 2900 version, but if you're only building a 2 cell then a couple of bucks is neither here nor there. That was in the US though, I know that there are many more sellers to choose from in China.

    Makes me super happy I got the nod from a friend on someone virtually giving away Panasonic cells a while back - I bought 20 2500mAh ones for ~$40 I don't think I'll ever be able to repeat that.

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    Looks like I'll have to pick up a couple Panasonic cells even if just for comparison's sake. I don't doubt they are better because way too many people couldn't be that wrong. To me it's just a money issue. If I can get some Panasonics for $13 a cell I'll give um' a try.

    The problem with using 18650 cells in torches is that LED's use drivers. Those drivers need a given voltage level to maintain their designed current draw. Almost every battery I know of has the voltage level drop like a rock almost as soon as you turn it on. The longer the torch stays in regulation, the better the battery. I can't wait to see how the Panasonics stack up to the others. For what it's worth if I could get a torch drawing 1A to stay in regulation 2hrs I would be dancing in the streets.

    Can someone tell me if the Panasonic NCR18650A cells are protected? I have a price on two for $21.71 which is not bad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post

    Can someone tell me if the Panasonic NCR18650A cells are protected? I have a price on two for $21.71 which is not bad.
    I don't believe Panasonic makes protected cells. The only way to get a protected version of the Panasonic cells is to buy them from a 3rd party that takes OEM Panasonic cells and add protection PCBs.

    I've been using NCR18650A cells exclusively for the past 18 months. They are by far the best 18650 cells I've ever used. But I only use them to build up complete packs with a single pack level protection circuit.

  12. #12
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    ditto mtbmacgyver - KC and all the others that make protected 18650s buy the cells and add their own PCBs. I think $22 was what I paid for 2, so that sounds about right.

    As for voltage drop - all li-ion cells drop from 4.2V to ~3.8V immediately on load and then have a fairly flat discharge until ~3.4V, after which they drop off fairly quickly. If the voltage drops further than 3.7V on first turn on, then you're pulling more current out of the cell than it wants to give you, so the voltage sags. That's what I was finding with the Ultrafire cells - with a 2P pack asked to give ~3A (so 1.5A per cell), their voltage would drop far enough to trigger the Vmed warning on the lflex (3.6V?) and then the Vlow (3.2V) shortly after that. I had to drop the drive current to 2A to make it even useable. However, those same cells in a 4P pack are fine (0.75A per cell). So it's not just the capacity you're paying for with brand name cells, it's the discharge rate too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    Looks like I'll have to pick up a couple Panasonic cells even if just for comparison's sake. I don't doubt they are better because way too many people couldn't be that wrong. To me it's just a money issue. If I can get some Panasonics for $13 a cell I'll give um' a try.

    The problem with using 18650 cells in torches is that LED's use drivers. Those drivers need a given voltage level to maintain their designed current draw. Almost every battery I know of has the voltage level drop like a rock almost as soon as you turn it on. The longer the torch stays in regulation, the better the battery. I can't wait to see how the Panasonics stack up to the others. For what it's worth if I could get a torch drawing 1A to stay in regulation 2hrs I would be dancing in the streets.

    Can someone tell me if the Panasonic NCR18650A cells are protected? I have a price on two for $21.71 which is not bad.
    Running three of the Panasonic 2900's in series (with a single PCB) and pulling roughly 1 amp, will give me fully regulated 9.5 to 10 watt output for around 3 hours using the Maxflex controller. This is with about 0.3V of total IR losses in the battery_pack/PCB (drop from fully charged 12.6 to 12.3 under load) and a conservative cutoff of 3V per cell. So I'd say the 2900 claim is pretty good.

    Matt... are you saying you saw 0.4V drops "per-cell" at any load? I haven't had any experience with other cells, so maybe I've been spoiled on the Panasonics, but that sure seems high just for internal resistance losses? Maybe partially due to the PCB being used? Just a thought.
    Last edited by pethelman; 01-30-2012 at 03:09 PM.

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    Interesting thread. Just for ###ts and giggles I connected a 2S1P setup of my 3 year old ultrafire 2400 unprotected cells to the 6 up XPG build I started wiring tonight. The light is wired 2S3P. Direct drive setup. Peak current hit 5.2A and quickly settled to 5.1A. Let it only go ~3 minutes as I didn't set up the fan to cool the light. I was surprised to see that those cells would discharge at that rate! 1.7A per XPG string!

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    Quote Originally Posted by MtbMacgyver View Post
    I don't believe Panasonic makes protected cells. The only way to get a protected version of the Panasonic cells is to buy them from a 3rd party that takes OEM Panasonic cells and add protection PCBs.

    I've been using NCR18650A cells exclusively for the past 18 months. They are by far the best 18650 cells I've ever used. But I only use them to build up complete packs with a single pack level protection circuit.
    Well that does help explain some things. I just might go ahead and buy some unprotected. I usually don't run my cells down too far anyway so it shouldn't be a problem. Come to think of it, I've never had a light go out due to reaching the cut-off point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vancbiker View Post
    Interesting thread. Just for ###ts and giggles I connected a 2S1P setup of my 3 year old ultrafire 2400 unprotected cells to the 6 up XPG build I started wiring tonight. The light is wired 2S3P. Direct drive setup. Peak current hit 5.2A and quickly settled to 5.1A. Let it only go ~3 minutes as I didn't set up the fan to cool the light. I was surprised to see that those cells would discharge at that rate! 1.7A per XPG string!
    And it can get more interesting. When the MJ808E first came out, I was experimenting with running it on two cell. I had an insulated bar clamp and a cut connector where I clamp two cell and see which cell works best.

    The Ultrafire red/black label 3600 mah 18650 ran for only 40 minutes before the lightheaded shutdown. The battery was very warm. The load was too much for them and the voltage sag from the heating. I was afraid to put them back in my Pila charger until they cool down.

    I did the same test with AW 2900 mah and it ran flawless for 1hr 50 minute and stayed cool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    Well that does help explain some things. I just might go ahead and buy some unprotected. I usually don't run my cells down too far anyway so it shouldn't be a problem. Come to think of it, I've never had a light go out due to reaching the cut-off point.
    The good thing with the unprotected cell is that if you later on prefer not to use them in your flashlight, you can build a pack or use them in a protected battery holder like those sold by Batteryspace.

    If you use those unprotected cell in your flashlght, the bad thing is what happen if the driver get shorted out?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    Well that does help explain some things. I just might go ahead and buy some unprotected. I usually don't run my cells down too far anyway so it shouldn't be a problem. Come to think of it, I've never had a light go out due to reaching the cut-off point.
    Most light systems have a cut off voltage of around 5.5V for a 2s setup. Most of the commercial battery packs have a cut off voltage of 5V built into their PCB to protect the battery. I am most familiar with the Panasonic cells, but their recommended cut off is at 2.3V per cell or 4.6V for a 2s setup.

    Cylindrical type | Lithium Ion Batteries | Batteries & Energy Products | Industrial Devices | Panasonic Global

    In most cases there is no problem running your light down to cut off as that still leaves plenty of buffer between that point and where you do any damage to the cells, however, it is not a good idea to run the light down to cut off and then throw the light in your glove compartment for a month until the next time that you use it

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    Hear is a link to a ebayer that has accurate graphs. I have bought 4 Yezl of him and they are spot on great run times to, double the cheaper ones.
    2x Panasonic 3100mAh NCR 18650A 3.7v batteries + case | eBay

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by pethelman View Post

    Matt... are you saying you saw 0.4V drops "per-cell" at any load? I haven't had any experience with other cells, so maybe I've been spoiled on the Panasonics, but that sure seems high just for internal resistance losses? Maybe partially due to the PCB being used? Just a thought.
    these were unprotected cells. They ran fine in a 3S1P pack powering a twin XP-G light at 1.2A, but they were unuseable in a 1S2P battery powering a single XM-L - sagging down to ~3.2V at 3A, so a nominal sag of 0.5V per cell (from 3.7V). However, I know other people have used different Ultrafire cells (the red and black flame *fires for example) without problem in 1S2P packs driving an XM-L. Seems pretty random.

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    take a look at torchy boys test,
    Torchy the Battery Boy: 18650 Batteries / Chargers

    for ~1.5A draw, the panasonic are great
    otherwise , my favorite, is the samsung 18650-28A,
    yes, it only get full capacity at 4.3V, but even at 4.2V, get 2530mah,
    what is good.
    on a panasonic 2900, minus ~300mah, = ~2600

    sanyo, and sony makes some good cells.
    these are all unprotected .
    the worst waist of money and time, are the GTL cells,
    regardless of label,..
    and I don't particularly like any, with "FIRE" in the Label ,...
    other notes:
    most of the pcb circuits, not to my expectations,... to put it mildly
    basically, they run the cells , down to , even 2.6V, to squeeze out another 3%
    what basically ruins them, well cuts their life in half or worse.
    for protected cells, get the AW .
    cheers, Rob

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by colleen c View Post
    The good thing with the unprotected cell is that if you later on prefer not to use them in your flashlight, you can build a pack or use them in a protected battery holder like those sold by Batteryspace.

    If you use those unprotected cell in your flashlght, the bad thing is what happen if the driver get shorted out?
    About the battery holder...Exactly what I was thinking. ...if the driver shorts out. ....Simple...I will utter every known curse word that can be said, than after that I will take it out and stomp on it and then curse it again...

    Posted by "Openlight"...
    .... In most cases there is no problem running your light down to cut off as that still leaves plenty of buffer between that point and where you do any damage to the cells, however, it is not a good idea to run the light down to cut off and then throw the light in your glove compartment for a month until the next time that you use it.
    Very, very good point to make. My biggest worry would be to accidentally turn the light on and not know it before it completely drains the battery. Hence, I will not use unprotected cells while working. No problem though if I'm using them while biking.

    Posted by rschultz101:
    ...for ~1.5A draw, the panasonic are great
    otherwise , my favorite, is the samsung 18650-28A,
    yes, it only get full capacity at 4.3V, but even at 4.2V, get 2530mah,
    what is good.
    on a panasonic 2900, minus ~300mah, = ~2600....

    other notes:
    most of the pcb circuits, not to my expectations,... to put it mildly
    basically, they run the cells , down to , even 2.6V, to squeeze out another 3%
    what basically ruins them, well cuts their life in half or worse.
    for protected cells, get the AW .
    A question about the Samsung 18650-28A's...
    Do they sell chargers that will charge these cells to the 4.3 - 4.35 optimal voltage? ( Note to others: most Li-ion cells charge to 4.2 volts each, these are different ) I've heard about these types of cells but I've not heard a lot of feedback from actual users. About your comment on pcb's....I'm not sure what cells you are referring to. Are you referring to the cheaper protected cells or just protected cells in general. I'm already aware that if you "deep discharge" any Li-ion battery that it will speed up the aging process of the cell. Not a big problem though unless you do it on a regular basis. Likely a good reason why most of my batteries last as long as they do....I rarely do deep discharging on any battery I own.

    Oh and Matt, thanks for pointing out my misconception concerning the "Kallies Customs".

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    Eagletac have recently released their protected version of the Panasonic 3100mAh cell. If it's genuine, the price is competitive.

    EagleTac - Accessories - IC Protected 18650 li-ion 3100mah

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    Whatever happened to those WoW batteries that were so highly touted on CPF a couple years ago ( or was it last year? ) ? I tried a search and I can't find anything other than old forum posts.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    About the battery holder...Exactly what I was thinking. * ...if the driver shorts out. ....Simple...I will utter every known curse word that can be said, than after that I will take it out and stomp on it and then curse it again...
    I bought the 2s2p flat holder from them since I wanted a flat style pack instead of the traditional square pack. I also wanted to upgrade to different new battery as they are introduced. So far I used the AW panasonic cell, however I had to strip the protection board because it was too long to fit into the holder. I had to re-wrap the cell with new PVC shrink tube.

    So far I am happy with it. The bare lead that is shown can be unsolder and add your own connector. I cut off the male connector end of a Y cable and solder it to the holder such that I have two female connector. It makes a cleaner wiring setup.

    The only thing I don't like about the panasonic battery is that the positive tab is really close to the edge of the battery housing which is the negative. There is like only a gap of about 1/32" seperation. Any metal object falling in can short the battery. Not sure if the other brand like this or not?

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