There’s a lot of information out there in the vapesphere about 18650 batteries. Some of it’s good, some of it is great – some of it is honestly downright useless. We measure these batteries three different ways – continuous amp draw capabilities (i.e., “20A” or 20 amps), battery capacity (measured in milli-Amp hours, or mAh), and cost. In general, you can have one or the other between A and mAh (you can have a high amp drain battery, but it will be low mAh or you can have a 5-10A battery with a whole lot of mAh).
There is no “one battery to rule all of vaping”. I always get a laugh out of folks that post that ubiquitous online question – “hey what battery do I need?” Even more humorous are the half dozen or so folks that answer, not knowing anything about how the questioner vapes. Stamping “VTC4” on every single battery information request and calling it a day isn’t helping anyone – except maybe Sony. There are some applications where that particular cell works great – but some where it certainly doesn’t perform as well as much cheaper cells. Battery usage (and safety) is all about matching the right cell to the right application – my “applications” are dual 18650 parallel with builds from 0.1-0.3, dual 18650 series with builds from 0.4-0.7, and the occasional single 18650 (mech mod) firing with relatively low subohm builds. I don’t own any regulated devices, so I don’t need batteries to match those applications. If I did, chances are they may or may not be the same batteries I’d recommend for unregulated devices.
So far, 2015 has been notable for several changes from 2014 – first and foremost in my mind, the statement “The only battery over 20A continuous is a VTCx from Sony. Waaaaah,” has been proven false. LG has entered the marketplace with two great offerings that are legitimate 25A (HD2) and 30A (HB6) cells. Samsung has changed labels on the 25R (and made the new ones slightly better than the old ones) and also introduced the 30Q, a vastly underrated “15A” continuous battery that should probably wear “25A” rather than “15A” on its label. The 30Q is a natural competitor for the LG HG2 as both are 3000 mAh which is definitely better than the 2500 mAh found in either the 25R or HE2/HE4 from LG. Sony is still in the mix, and one can definitely find legitimate VTC3s, VTC4s, (30A) and VTC5s (20/30A depending on where you see it) from many reputable sellers online.
Pretty much everyone and everything else is a rewrapped version of something from one of these three companies. There are a few folks in the industry capable of setting up a new line and going into 18650 production (notably Aspire who I believe did so last year), but for the most part the capital outlay required to get into the battery manufacturing business is simply too cost-prohibitive. After all, vapers are a tiny fraction of the worldwide 18650 user community and marketplace – and our requirements aren’t exactly the same as some of the bigger players. Personally, I no longer order anything other than batteries from these three companies – that’s a personal decision and I don’t begrudge folks who are in love with “vendor X”, but also a decision that can be seen any time I recommend a battery…it’s probably always going to be a major manufacturer cell.
I have several different models of EFests, some Imrens, a bunch of MXJOs, and cells from a few other manufacturers – none of them has ever given me an issue to be honest. Knock on wood, I’ve never vented a battery. Looking back, I’d make different purchasing decisions today knowing what I know now, but I don’t regret any of them so far. I was suckered into “what it claimed on the side of the battery” a few times, but those were valuable learning experiences. Continuous amp draw is all that matters, but it’s not all that some manufacturers publish. Be very wary of numbers that don’t make sense (check out these NEW 40A continuous 18650s! Woot!) because it’s probably a manufacturer claiming a pulse rating as a continuous rating. If you only vape for 0.5 seconds every few minutes, those are great numbers, if you have a tendency to chain-vape like I do at times, pulse ratings don’t mean much.
What does all that mean? For most folks, honestly not much. Ubiquitous HE2s and HE4s from LG and 25Rs from Samsung still do the vast majority of my heavy vape lifting. Honestly, I vape pretty simply – 100% unregulated and almost all of the time I’m running a box mod with two 18650s. I still bring out the tube mods from time to time, especially when I want to have quite a few devices set up for testing new flavors. The overwhelming majority of my vaping is done in my home office, where my XTAR VC4 chargers are ready to recharge at a moment’s notice…so things like the difference between 2500 mAh and 3000 mAh aren’t as noticeable to me since I have two sets of batteries for all my box mods.
If I had to start over from scratch today, I would certainly invest in some of these new cells. I will probably invest in LG HG2s or Samsung 30Qs exclusively as my HE2s, HE4s and 25Rs reach the end of their lives and cycle out of the daily rotation. I’m in no big rush to replace all of them though. Any new batteries for tube mod usage will undoubtedly be LG HB6s or HD2s.
Unfortunately, if you want an 18650 capable of 30A continuous amp draw with 5000 mAh, you probably need to invest in a time machine more than a battery because today’s technology just can’t create a cell with those characteristics in the 18650 package…we’ll talk more about why over the next week or two.
Thanks much to IMR Batteries, one of the best vaping vendors I’ve found out there. I’ve linked wherever possible to their site within this post for ease of accessing specific battery information. There are two or three very reliable battery vendors out there that have great deals and we’ll be discussing those folks as well…:)
Have fun, stay safe, and vape on.