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Mooch Musing: What is a rewrapped battery?

Discussion in 'Batteries and Chargers' started by Mooch, Dec 12, 2019.

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  1. Mooch

    Mooch Electron Wrangler Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    May 13, 2015
    New vapers often ask what a rewrapped battery is but things have changed enough over the past couple of years that we might not be able to definitively answer that question anymore.

    A couple of years ago this question was easy. A rewrapped battery was a Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic, or Sanyo (“OEM”, Original Equipment Manufacturer) battery that had its original plastic wrap removed and a new one put on by another company before being sold. Often with spectacularly exaggerated current and capacity ratings.

    The exaggerated ratings situation is slowly getting better and some battery wrapping companies now rate their batteries pretty accurately. Most still have useless “pulse” and “max” ratings though.

    Many in our community said there were only three manufacturers; Samsung, Sony, and LG. Murata bought a lot of Sony’s battery operations in 2017, and Murata now makes the VTC batteries we use, but that is a different story.

    Something important to mention is that these OEM batteries, which were rewrapped, were not purchased directly from the big manufacturers. They were bought as excess inventory on the gray market or (I think very rarely) from diverted shipments meant for recycling. This can still happen.

    It’s all a lot more complicated now though.

    We still have the rewrapped OEM batteries but we also have the same wrapping companies using batteries from other OEMs and from the smaller China factories. The cells manufactured in China are particularly popular now for these companies because of the, I believe, lower cost per battery and the much more reliable supply from these factories.

    The wrapping companies no longer have to search everywhere for the batteries they need, a few thousand at a time, all over the world. That often resulted in mixed grades of batteries, ones stored in less than ideal environments, and higher costs.

    Now these companies can order unwrapped batteries from a China factory and get a consistent supply shipped to them on whatever schedule they need.

    Are these rewrapped batteries then?

    Technically, they might never have been wrapped. They’re certainly not from any of the large OEM’s we associated with rewrapped batteries originally. So what do we call them?

    Making it even more complicated, what do we call batteries from Moli, BAK, Lishen, and other large manufacturers? Some are in China but Moli is in Taiwan and Canada. If a company wraps those batteries can we call them rewraps? Did they need to have had a wrap on them originally? What if the rewrappers buy bare batteries?

    Gets a little confusing.

    Lastly, many of the wrapping companies will sell rewraps from the large OEMs along with ones from the other OEMs and ones from the smaller China factories.

    Okay...yea...it gets very confusing.

    In my opinion, there are true rewraps using batteries from Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic, Sanyo but I would also add the other OEMs like Moli, Lishen, BAK, and a couple of others. Whether the cells are sourced bare or in original factory wraps, I would call all these rewraps because they are from the large, established manufacturers who make these batteries for uses other than vaping.

    In my opinion, the other batteries from the smaller China factories are just that...China manufactured batteries. Not rewraps. But, of course, it can get all muddled up here because what if these batteries had factory wraps on them?

    LOL...it’s never easy. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    I do want to make clear that, in spite of the reputation rewrapped batteries seem to have, they are not inherently inferior or dangerous in some way. Most are likely a lower grade but that is just a performance hit, often unnoticeable, not an inherent safety issue unless they were truly low grade or were faulty batteries destined for recycling or were made without the typical internal safety devices that are in OEM batteries (the CID and PTC).

    For those who advocate purchasing only OEM-wrapped batteries, that might not guarantee much of anything. Where do you think these rewrapping companies get their OEM cells for rewrapping?

    While I’m sure there are some Grade A batteries being sold in their original wraps, or rewrapped, we can never assume that any battery in an OEM wrap is superior in performance or is somehow “safer” than a rewrapped battery. We just don’t know.

    Batteries from the E-One Moli Energy Corp., maker of Molicels, are an exception to this though as they pass all safety tests and Moli is willing to sell directly to our community and they have authorized vendors.

    Are the batteries from the smaller China factories, so popular now with the companies marketing to vapers, a way to help ensure a safer source? They could be if the manufacturing is consistent enough and they pass international safety standards testing. There are standards like UL1642 and IEC/EN62133 that could help lower the risks and UL certification requires factory inspections (not sure about the IEC certification), a very good thing. Right now they are not as consistent in performance, from cell to cell, as the ones from the large OEMs though.

    We just don’t have any definitive information yet either about the safety of these batteries from the smaller China factories. I’ve been trying to dig into all this but few of these factories get this kind of safety testing done. Most say they pass the basic UN38.3 safety testing (required for some methods of shipping) but there is no data I can find on field failure rates due to internal defects. It’s just don’t think it’s required by their customers. Hopefully that changes someday. In the mean time, we can only hope we’re not taking a big risk.

    As a comparison, the internal defect failure rate of 18650’s from the big OEM’s is typically quoted as being about one in one million batteries. That’s a very low failure rate and “failure” does not mean the battery exploded. Most failures are just the battery self-discharging down a lot faster than normal to a very low voltage, making the battery useless.

    So, what makes a battery a rewrap can get complicated and it all makes things very confusing for new vapers.

    How can we simplify it all? What is your definition of a rewrap?
     
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  2. 440BB

    440BB Vaping Master Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Apr 19, 2011
    The Motor City
    I used to think of rewraps as somewhat inferior batteries from questionable sources. Even though AW and Orbtronic offered their rewraps, they were of a different breed and I never put them in that category. Things have changed over the last couple years, so maybe it's time to break down rewraps in a simple way. You may have already coined the term:

    OEM
    Major manufacturers

    Rewrap Grade A
    These would include any non-OEM wrapped battery that can be proven to be from a major OEM and/or certified source

    Rewrap Grade B
    All non-OEM wrapped batteries where the source isn't certified or a major OEM yet perform adequately for their intended use

    Rewrap Grade F
    All non-oem wrapped batteries that are unacceptable and should not be used in a vaping application

    By separating non-OEM batteries in this way consumers would get an clearer sense of their relative quality and consistency. It doesn't break out the newer influx of smaller Chinese manufacturers but until they're certified in some way that may make sense.

    Hopefully some refinement can help people make better informed choices for their application. Distilling all the data into easily understood categories is the challenge. Thanks for bringing this up!
     
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  3. jandrew

    jandrew Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Apr 2, 2013
    Winnipeg
    It is complicated --- but I simply think in terms of "primary" and "secondary": primary for cells actually manufactured by the company whose wrap is on the cell (Sony/Murata, Panasonic, Samsung, Moli, Sanyo, Lishen, BAK, Lithium Werks), and secondary for cells sourced by a battery wrapping company (who may source from a well trusted primary manufacturer, or from less known primary manufacturers, and/or switch sources at any time with no change in the wraps).

    It isn't that secondary cells are inherently worse cells (they may well be the same trusted primary cells underneath), but that we know less about the current underlying cell and perhaps nothing about what cell might be underlying the next batch.

    Of course, with 18350/500 sizes, secondary may be the only option.
     
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  4. sonicbomb

    sonicbomb Vaping Master Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Feb 17, 2015
    1187 Hundertwasser
    For me, OEM (Sony, LG, Samsung etc.) cells that have been tested by Mooch are the only cells I would consider using.

    I might consider a Chinese cell if no other equivalent OEM is available. But only if it was from a major company of known track record and if it was Mooch approved.

    I would never use a rewrapped cell firstly on principle, secondly because there is no way to know what cell they will consistently use under the wrap.
     
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  5. Hawise

    Hawise Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    AB, Canada
    My definition of a rewrap is a cell wrapped and branded by someone other than the manufacturer. Molicel etc. is not a rewrap; anything with an Efest label is.

    It's perfectly possible to encounter a manufacturer's cell that's no good for vaping, whether that's because it doesn't have suitable-for-vaping specs (but is perfectly good for other applications) or because it's a low-grade rejected cell, but that's always been the case. I suppose there could now be manufacturer's cells from an identifiable but inconsistant and poor-quality manufacturer as well.

    It's also possible to get a decent rewrap, but the key point is that you never know what you're buying with a rewrap. Even if testing can provide a good idea of where a rewrap came from and what its specs are, you can never be sure if that will be true tomorrow. I suppose this issue does overlap with the impossibility of identifying the grade of a manufacturer's cell bought on the grey market.

    You know, I thought I had a point when I started this post, but I'm less sure now. Perhaps I'm just saying that it's always been a gross oversimplification to say that manufacturer's cells are good and rewraps are bad.
     
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  6. Rossum

    Rossum Surly Curmudgeon Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Dec 14, 2013
    NE FL
    I am quite skeptical about this. I'm sure they do grade their cells, but I'd be quite surprised if the difference between grades was enough to make the lower grades "no good for vaping". Major manufacturers have data sheets for their cells. Those data sheets list certain characteristics, capacity, internal resistance, CDR, and so on. If you were one of the major manufacturers, would you let a "low grade, rejected cell" that doesn't meet the performance specs on the data sheet out of your facility with your name and your wrap on it? I sure wouldn't!
     
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  7. dripster

    dripster Ultra Member ECF Veteran

    Feb 18, 2017
    Belgium
    By definition a rewrap means that the initial wrap has been replaced with a different one. So a bare battery that's been wrapped with a brand name (or with an equivalent of sorts, as long as it can be traced back to a given company name that's an official one, unambiguously...) on the wrap that differs from the manufacturer's own brand I would call a rebrand. I.e., similar to how a wrapped battery without any provenance related info on the wrap would be called unbranded. So all rewraps are rebrands (that is, excepting of course only maybe if the OEM wrap had a fault in it and was replaced with a corrected version of it), but not all rebrands are rewraps.

    Still a bit confusing I guess, but less so than letting the old myth that a rewrap is essentially the same as a reject continue to be kept alive IMO. The key to understanding all is still about there being not only fakes, but also different safety standards that originate from the manufacturing process. And that having different grades still excludes having rejects. Because having a low grade cell does not even equate to having low performance, as a low grade instance of a well performing cell will much more often than not still mop the floor with a high grade instance of a shabby cell. And, safety is part determined by cell performance so perpetuating the old myth re rewraps being rejects is putting people factually at risk, even.
     
  8. DaveP

    DaveP PV Master & Musician ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    May 22, 2010
    Central GA
    I suppose that most anyone with a dot matrix printer could fake a Sony, LG, or other brand cell with the right color wrap and the correct nomenclature printed on the wrap (using a cell with positive terminal design that matches the original).

    Our best sources for cells are (IMO) those larger sellers whose reputation depends on selling cells that perform and are guaranteed by them to be authentic. We are the minor customers for those suppliers. Their main customers are battery pack makers who buy thousands at a time.
     
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  9. Rossum

    Rossum Surly Curmudgeon Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Dec 14, 2013
    NE FL
    Are we? Who assembles battery packs from cylindrical cells in the US (other than Tesla motors). That's a labor-intensive process and American workers are expensive.
     
  10. DaveP

    DaveP PV Master & Musician ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    May 22, 2010
    Central GA
    I still maintain that vapers and flashlight enthusiasts are a marginal outlet for lithium cells. We don't get mass buying discounts when we buy cells in small quantities (which was my original point).
     
  11. Rossum

    Rossum Surly Curmudgeon Verified Member ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    Dec 14, 2013
    NE FL
    To the cell manufacturers and their first-tier of distributors? Sure. To the vendors we actually buy from, who are further down the food chain? Probably not.
     
  12. DaveP

    DaveP PV Master & Musician ECF Veteran

    Supporting member
    May 22, 2010
    Central GA
    There's plenty of profit incentive for resellers to cater to us and all the others who buy lithium cells in small quantities. It's getting to the point where lots of mid to high end power tools, yard tools, and other battery powered devices are featuring lithium cells. The consumer market for lithium cells is a growth industry. A big part of that is the introduction of electric cars promoting technology gains. I see lithium cells as a booming market because of that.
     

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