(3) Are You Using a Rewrap (Rebranded) Battery?
I’m a firm believer that our choice of batteries for our mods is the most important decision that we make concerning our gear. We should always make an effort to use only the best batteries available to us. It doesn't really pay to save a couple of bucks on cheaper, lower quality batteries in the long run. Not all 18650 batteries are equal in performance and the brand (manufacturer) plays an extremely important role in determining that. By nature, the 18650 battery industry is extremely competitive, secretive, and sometimes downright deceptive to consumers.
If you aren’t using an LG, Samsung, Sanyo, or Sony (murata) battery made in Japan or South Korea, chances are you are using a brand originating from China. China companies often don't meet the higher standards that the "Big Four" battery brands use.
The Chinese brands are either making batteries with poorer specifications or are buying the rejected batteries made by the Big Four (again with poorer specs) and putting their own wraps on the cells. This practice is what defines a battery "re-wrapper". To make matters worse, the Chinese companies often inflate or exaggerate the specifications of their batteries to trick consumers into thinking that their batteries are superior to the Big Four. The rewrapper companies can also change out the cell that they use with a poorer quality cell without notification
Let’s Talk About How the 18650 Battery Industry Works
The brands LG, Panasonic/Sanyo, Samsung, and Sony are well known to vapers, as well as to the electronics industry in general. These four manufacturers make the majority of batteries (75%) in the 18650 market. They represent the pinnacle of modern battery technology and innovation. They also just happen to make the majority of televisions worldwide.
Batteries are not created equal despite high standards of engineering, technology, and manufacturing techniques. After the cells are made and prior to being sold, they go through a series of quality control processes. They then are sorted as to their overall quality. Batteries are then graded A, B or C in quality.
Batteries that test with an effeciency of 95.5%+ are considered A Bin
Batteries that test with an effeciency of 92%-95%+ are considered B Bin
Batteries that test with an effeciency of 88%-91%+ are considered C Bin
“A Bin” batteries represent the top tier, and are generally reserved for sale for the auto and OEM power tool industries. “B” and “C” Bin batteries are somewhat lesser in quality, and are generally sold off to those brands or companies who re-wrap batteries under their own logo or brand. The top tier batteries made for the automobile/OEM power tool industry made by Lg, Samsung, and Sony are often made available to resellers and suppliers when they become overstocked. Rebranding/re-wrapping companies also purchase these A bin batteries (along with lesser quality batteries) and market them with exaggerated specifications.
Why Would a Company Re-wrap Another Manufacterer's Battery Instead of Manufacturing Their Own?
Building a new battery factory is a HUGE, multi-million dollar investment. With all of the new upstart brands of batteries appearing out of nowhere recently, one has to wonder how they can advertise amp ratings which seem to be too good to be true. The facts are, they are too good to be true.
It is far cheaper and more profitable for an upstart brand to re-wrap another manufacturer’s lesser quality cell and throw on a pretty wrapper with their own logo than it is to start a new factory. Paying only 10 to 20 cents per battery for these lesser quality batteries and then charging $6 to $10 per battery just for a new wrapper can result in quite a profit margin. Add to this that most of these companies over-rate their amp and mah ratings to gain consumers’ attention. Because there is no regulatory authority to monitor the industry they can get away with the false advertising and "bait & switch" tactics.
Many of these upstart brands are advertising “maximum discharge” ratings, not specifying whether this means the “continuous” or “pulse” discharge rating, which can confuse battery experts as much as regular consumers. There is a huge difference between the two. For now, let’s imagine we are evesdropping into a fictional board meeting at one of these re-wrapping companies.
CEO: Good morning. What cells have we acquired?
Inventory Team: We have a small batch of “B” bin LG 30 amp batteries. And we also have five large batches of “C” bin Samsung 20 amp batteries.
CEO: What consumer base should we be targeting with our advertising?
Research Team: We should target the ecig mod users. They are always looking for high amp batteries.
CEO: OK, good. Let’s go heavy on the advertising. Advertise that they are 40 amp batteries. Make sure our wrappers boldly say 40 amps. Inflating the specifications will justify our higher retail prices to potential consumers.
Marketing: Consider it done. I already have some YouTube reviewers in mind who always give great reviews if they receive free gear. We’ll make sure they get the “B” bin batteries to review, just to be sure.
CEO: When the “B” bin batch runs out, switch over to the “C” bin batteries for sale to the distributors and vendors. If sales run slow, make arrangements to sell them on Ebay and Amazon.
I created the above conversation to demonstrate how these companies can inflate the specs of the battery and also change the make, model, and quality of the battery at any given time.
Most aftermarket batteries are generally Chinese brands. The first thing vapors must realize is that many of these brands have nothing to lose, and can make greatly exaggerated claims regarding performance with no bad fall back.
For example Ultrafire will claim 6000mah capacity in cells that are tested to be only 1000mah. Of course the other grossly exaggerated stat is amp rating...and to sell to vapors, many of these companies will make outrageous claims. We really recommend that the consumer stay away from all aftermarket batteries. Here is a list of battery brands highly suspected of being re-wraps:
So you may be asking how do I know this stuff? Battery rewraps have been a common practice for years. In some cases, it doesn’t matter much as long as the re-wrap company is honest about the battery specifications they advertise. Orbtronics openly admits that their house brand are rewrapped Panasonics and Sony batteries. Xtar also admits to rewrapping Sony batteries.
Back in the day, China-based AW made a great reputation and a lot of money allegedly selling re-wrapped Japanese-made batteries. I don’t believe AW ever admitted they were re-wraps, but one could read between the lines.
It’s only a hunch, but I believe AW (for Andrew Wong) made enough fortune to build his own factory in China. He was a former executive for Panasonic, and continued to do business with former Japanese counterparts. The label for AW used to say "Made in China. Cell manufactered in Japan." His ICR batteries now say only, “Made in China”, as do his IMR batteries.
If memory serves me correct, AW was the first brand to offer IMR batteries before any other brand. They also make great performing IMR batteries in 18350 and 18490 sizes. LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony don’t make this size of IMR battery, so if AW isn’t making them, who is? The new AW 18650 3000mah 20 amp battery is the only AW battery which says, “Made in Korea”, its bench test mirrored the LG HG2 3000mah 20 amp, so it might be a rewrapped LG (LG is based in Korea).
Deceptive Marketing Practices by Battery Rewrappers
If you are considering purchasing a particular 18650 battery, just remember that...
...there are none with a true continuous rating over 30A.
...there are none rated at 3000mAh with a true continuous rating over 20A.
...there are none rated over-3000mAh with a true continuous rating over 10A.
...pulse or battery company "max" ratings are useless and can't be used to compare batteries.
Any “max” or “pulse” rating is useless unless we know the length of the pulse, the time between the pulses, and the criteria used to set the rating (Voltage sag? Temperature? Run time? A combination of those?). Without knowing this, and all companies using the same pulse lengths, rest times, and criteria, we can’t use the max/pulse ratings for comparing any batteries. They are useless.
Battery Amp Ratings: Continuous vs Pulse Ratings
Battery pulse ratings are useless! | E-Cigarette Forum
There are no 18650 batteries with a genuine rating over 30A!
What I detest is when a rewrap has over-rated specifications through deceptive advertising to con consumers into believing they are buying a superior battery. In certain applications, this could have serious consequences to an unsuspecting user.
This first came to my attention a few years ago when Dampfakkus, an independent battery researcher, published that a particular purple battery manufacturer was very likely re-wrapping batteries and inflating the specifications.
(ABOVE) Removing the insulating wraps of a Sony VTC4 and a Purple Efest 2100mah 30 amp revealed the same cell underneath.
The Efest 2100mah 30 amp battery had a Sony VTC4, so no problem here because the advertised specs were the same as the Sony. However…
Efest protested that the samples tested by the research must have been counterfeits, and insisted that they make their own batteries and don’t rewrap. They began “authenticating” their batteries with codes that a consumer could check, but it didn’t really matter. The authentic batteries didn’t test out any better than the so-called fake ones.
The Efest 2500mah 35amp had a LG 2500 mah 18650 HE2 cell, which LG said was only a 20 amp battery.
The Efest 3100 mah 20 amp had a Panasonic NCR18650BE, which tested out as only a 6 amp rating.
Not too long after this, ECF battery guru Battery Mooch came along with his own independent bench tests. His findings consistently show that all of the suspected re-wrappers’ batteries with an advertised amp rating over 30 amps are only 20 amp batteries or lower. Meanwhile, the batteries manufactured by AW, LG, Samsung, and Sony consistently matched their advertised specifications or actually underrated them. List of Battery Tests
Does this mean that your rewrap batteries are “bad” or not safe? Not necessarily, it depends upon how you are using them.
If you’re using them in a regulated mod, the protection circuitry will most likely inform you if the battery is inadequate to provide the watts you ask of it. The overall performance of your regulated mod may suffer poor performance, however.
However, if you’re using them in a mech and running a super sub-ohm build, you may be at risk by placing yourself in danger. Using what you believe to be a 40 amp battery (not realizing its only a 20 amp battery) with a 0.1 - 0.2 ohm build sounds pretty dicey to me.
When you can buy an authentic LG, Samsung, or Sony battery from a reputable dealer for $5 to $6, why pay that much or more for a suspected re-wrap brand? Which is also more than likely a “B” or “C” bin battery of lesser or unknown quality? Consider that a re-wrapper can change what cell they use at any time. Why not just buy a battery made by the original manufacturer and be reasonably assured of its quality from the get go?
Purchasing Authentic Batteries From Reputable Dealers to Avoid Getting Counterfeits
This brings up another important point. Battery counterfeiters are becoming extremely good at making fakes that look like authentic brands. Over the last 3 - 4 years counterfiet batteries have appeared on the market to look like popular and authentic AW, Sony, Samsung, and Lg batteries.
The wraps are easily duplicated by counterfeiters and the printing is not a reliable way to detect a fake as it changes depending on when and which plant the battery was manufactured at.
For a lot of batteries even removing the wrap doesn't help. The LG HE2, HE4, HG2, MG1, and others are almost identical visually. Only professional bench testing can them apart.
What can you do?
Does buying from these vendors guarantee you'll never get a fake? No.
- If the top ring insulator is self-adhesive and stuck to the battery then it is definitely a fake. If the ring is loose, not glued to the battery, then it MIGHT be genuine. This applies to any Samsung, Sony, LG, or Panasonic/Sanyo battery.
- If a battery doesn't seem to perform nearly as well as another battery of the same type, or it runs a lot warmer, it MIGHT be a fake.
- Only buy from known, trusted sources. This is not a complete list but a few recommended vendors are:
But they should do the right thing and replace the battery or refund your money if you do get a fake. That's the best we can ask for.
Does buying from someone else mean you'll always get a fake? Certainly not.
But it seems best to try to do all you can to increase your chances of getting genuine batteries, even if that means spending more money.
It sucks that our vaping community is in this situation but it's the hand we've been dealt. Educating ourselves, buying from trusted vendors, and spreading the word about vendors selling fakes (and not accepting returns) is the best way for us to protect ourselves right now.
I predict that the next batteries to be counterfeited will be either the popular Samsung 30Q or the new Sony VTC5A or VTC6.
In early 2016, reviewer Phil Busardo visited China and filmed a tour of the Aspire battery factory. He gained access and permission to film this because his friend is a part owner of Aspire. Phil also tried to visit another un-named factory, and was coldly told, “We don’t need you here.” Until more companies open their doors, we have no certain way to know if they are a legit manufacturer or just a rewrapper.
In closing, learn to become a wiser and more informed consumer. Don’t believe the advertising hype of 30 amp plus batteries, they don’t exist. Do your research before buying. Check Mooch’s Blog to see which batteries he tested and which ones he recommends.
18650 Battery Buying Guide for Vapor Users, Wake and Vape
A Beginner’s Guide to Lithium Batteries, Mind of Morandir
18650 Battery Safety Grades — Picking a Safe Cell to Vape With, Mooch’s Blog, E-Cigarette Forum
Purple Efest Batteries Not As Advertised, Baditude’s Blog, E-Cigarette Forum
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