Used Lithium-Ion Batteries
Lithium-ion batteries and devices containing these batteries should NOT go in household garbage or recycling bins.
Lithium-ion batteries SHOULD be taken to separate recycling or household hazardous waste collection points.
To prevent fires, tape battery terminals and/or place lithium-ion batteries in separate plastic bags.
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Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are used in many products such as electronics, toys, wireless headphones, handheld power tools, small and large appliances, electric vehicles and electrical energy storage systems. If not properly managed at the end of their useful life, they can cause harm to human health or the environment.
The increased demand for Li-ion batteries in the marketplace can be traced largely to the high “energy density” of this battery chemistry. “Energy density” means the amount of energy that a system stores in an amount of space. Lithium batteries can be smaller and lighter than other types of batteries while holding the same amount of energy. This miniaturization has allowed for a Rapid increase in the consumer adoption of smaller portable and cordless products.
Information for Consumers
There are two types of lithium batteries that the U.S. consumers use and need to manage at the end of their useful life: single-use, non-rechargeable lithium metal batteries and re-chargeable lithium-polymer cells (Li-ion, Li-ion cells).
Li-ion batteries are made of materials such as cobalt, graphite and lithium which are considered critical minerals. Critical minerals are raw materials that are economically and strategically important to the U.S., have a high risk of their supply being disrupted and for which there are no easy substitutes. When these batteries are disposed of in the trash, we lose these critical resources outright. For more information on critical minerals go to the U.S. Geological Survey website.
Additionally, if the battery or electronic device that contains the battery is disposed of in the trash or placed in the municipal recycling bin with household recyclables such as plastic, paper or glass, it may become damaged or crushed in transport or from processing and sorting equipment, creating a fire hazard.
Li-ion batteries, or those contained in electronic devices, should therefore be recycled at certified battery electronics recyclers that accept batteries rather than being discarded in the trash or put in municipal recycling bins.
EPA recommendation: Find a location to recycle Li-ion batteries and products that contain Li-ion batteries using one of the suggested links; do not put them in the trash or municipal recycling bins.
Li-ion batteries in electronics: Send electronic devices containing Li-ion batteries to certified electronics recyclers, participating retailers and recyclers in electronics takeback services or contact your local solid waste or household hazardous waste collection program for more options.
Li-ion batteries that are easily separated from the product (e.g., power tools): Find a recycling location near youto properly dispose of Li-ion batteries. Send individual batteries to specialized battery recyclers or retailers that are participating in takeback services or contact your local solid waste or household hazardous waste program for more options.
Two resources for finding a recycler are the Earth 911 databaseand Call2Recycle.
Handling precautions: Place each battery or device containing a battery in a separate plastic bag. Place non-conductive tape (e.g., electrical tape) over the battery’s terminals. If the Li-ion battery becomes damaged, contact the battery or device manufacturer for specific handling information. Even used batteries can have enough energy to injure or start fires. Not all batteries are removable or serviceable by the user. Heed battery and product markings regarding safety and use.
EPA recommendation: Contact the manufacturer, automobile dealer or company that installed the Li-ion battery for management options; do not put it in the trash or municipal recycling bins.
Because of the size and complexity of these battery systems, medium and large-scale Li-ion batteries may not be able to be removed by the consumer. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and heed warnings and safety instructions.
- Automobile: Contact the automobile dealer, shop or salvage yard where the battery was purchased.
- Energy Storage: Contact the energy storage equipment manufacturer or company that installed the battery.
‘Avoid the Spark. Be Battery Safety Smart.’ Campaign
Due to the increase of fires at recycling and waste facilities across the country, industry groups have worked together to develop the ‘Avoid the Spark. Be Battery Safety Smart.’ campaign. This campaign seeks to educate the American consumer about battery safety and proper management of used Li-ion batteries. The main message of the campaign is that batteries can and should be recycled when they reach the end of their useful life. For more information go to Call2Recycle’s website.
U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Check the Box” Campaign
The DOT’s “Check the Box” campaign is a public awareness campaign that seeks to prevent serious incidents by increasing public awareness of everyday items that are considered hazardous materials in transportation – this includes batteries that are packaged and sent for recycling or disposal. Batteries must be correctly identified, packaged, and labeled via package markings before being sent for recycling or disposal. For more information, go to DOT’s Check the Box campaign and check out the campaign video.
Information for Businesses
Some lithium-ion batteries may meet the definition of hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) if they exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste such as ignitability, reactivity or toxicity when they are disposed. Persons who generate wastes that are defined as hazardous under RCRA are referred to as “hazardous waste generators.” These regulations do not apply to households because under RCRA, hazardous wastes discarded by households are generally exempt from hazardous waste regulations. In contrast, commercial establishments are responsible for determining whether any waste they produce is hazardous waste, including Li-ion batteries at their end of life.
Lithium-ion batteries with different chemical compositions can appear nearly identical yet have different properties. In addition, some discarded Li-ion batteries are more likely to have hazardous properties if they contain a significant charge, yet such batteries can appear to the user to be completely discharged. For these reasons, it can be difficult for a generator to identify which of its waste Li-ion batteries are defined as hazardous waste when disposed. Therefore, where there is uncertainty, EPA recommends that businesses consider managing Li-ion batteries under the federal “universal waste” regulations in Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 273.
The universal waste regulations provide a streamlined set of requirements for generators of specific types of common hazardous wastes (e.g., fluorescent lamps containing mercury, batteries) from a wide variety of commercial settings. Requirements differ depending on whether you accumulate less or more than 5,000 kg of total universal wastes on site at one time, but they include instructions on how to manage the waste, how to label containers, how long the waste can be accumulated on site, and where the waste can be sent, among others. Universal waste regulations do not require shipment using a hazardous waste manifest but do require that the waste be sent to a permitted hazardous waste disposal facility or a recycler. International shipments of Li-ion batteries managed as universal waste must also comply with RCRA requirements for export and import of universal waste. EPA recommends that businesses consult their state solid and hazardous waste agencies for additional information on applicable universal waste regulations.
An additional consideration, particularly for small businesses or those that generate small amounts of hazardous waste per month, are the RCRA “very small quantity generator” (VSQG) regulations. Li-ion batteries discarded by businesses that generate less than 100 kg (220 pounds) of hazardous waste per month are considered very small quantity generator waste and may be subject to reduced hazardous waste requirements. Prior to using the VSQG exemption, check with your state regulatory program, as they may have different requirements. Although EPA recommends that all batteries be managed under the universal waste standards, persons collecting or storing used Li-ion batteries from households or from VSQGs for the purposes of either exemption should keep them separate from other collected Li-ion batteries that are subject to more stringent requirements. Otherwise, they risk having the entire commingled collection subjected to the more stringent requirements (e.g., the streamlined universal waste requirements or the standard hazardous waste generator regulations).
Information for Workers
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Safety and Health Information Bulletin: Preventing Fire and/or Explosion Injury from Small and Wearable Lithium Battery Powered Devices. The Bulletin is advisory in nature, informational in content, and intended to educate workers and assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.
Information for Transporters
DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations
Lithium batteries are hazardous materials and are subject to DOT’s Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171–180). This includes packaging and standard hazard communication requirements (e.g., markings, labels, shipping papers, emergency response information) and hazmat employee training requirements. Hazard communication requirements are found in part 172 of the HMR and requirements specific to lithium batteries are found in 49 CFR section 173.185.
DOT Safety Advisory Notice for Disposal and Recycling of Lithium Batteries in Commercial Transportation
In May 2022, DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration issued a Safety Advisory Notice for Disposal and Recycling of Lithium Batteries in Commercial Transportation. The Safety Advisory Notice aims to increase the public’s overall awareness about the dangers related to shipping lithium batteries for recycling or disposal. The Safety Advisory Notice:
- Highlights the essential hazmat regulatory information needed to ship lithium batteries in commercial transportation for recycling and disposal.
- Discusses the general dangers of shipping lithium batteries, what consumers should do, and steps shippers and carriers need to take when disposing and recycling lithium batteries and equipment/products containing lithium batteries.
- Directs readers to a variety of additional resources for further information on preparing lithium batteries for shipment.
DOT Guidance for Damaged, Defective, or Recalled (DDR) Lithium Ion Batteries
DDR lithium batteries, including those that have been misused and abused, are more likely to catch fire during transportation than non-DDR lithium batteries. Unfortunately, misused, abused, and other kinds of DDR lithium batteries can be difficult to identify. Without the proper information and awareness, many shippers and carriers may continue to ship DDR lithium batteries in the same manner as non-DDR ones, creating additional risks for their communities. This guidance is intended to help you identify DDR lithium batteries and properly package them for shipment.
- EPA Lithium-Ion Battery Disposal and Recycling Workshop, Summary Report (pdf) (799.47 KB)
- An Introduction to Lithium Batteries and the Challenges that they Pose to the Waste and Recycling Industry
- Management Challenges for Lithium Batteries at Electronics Recyclers
The following links exit the site:
Disclaimer: These sites are listed for informational purposes only. U.S. EPA does not endorse any of these entities, nor their services.
- EPA released a Summary Report for the Lithium-Ion Batteries in the Waste Stream Workshops. These workshops were held on October 5, 2021, and October 19, 2021, as two half-day sessions. Learn more and read the summary report.
- Learn about infrastructure investments to improve the nation’s battery recycling programs.
- EPA released a report analyzing the impacts of end-of-life lithium-ion batteries, generally from consumer devices (e.g., cell phones, tablets, vacuums, etc.), going into the municipal solid waste management process. Learn more and read the report.
How Do You Put Out a Lithium-Ion Battery Fire?
Lithium-ion batteries (or Li-ion batteries) are considered safe to use, but with growing usage from millions of consumers and businesses, failure is bound to happen. Issues with exploding cell phones, e-cigarettes, and laptops haven’t gone away, even years after the Samsung Galaxy 7 recall. In the aviation industry alone, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported a total of 340 incidents involving smoking or burning lithium-ion batteries between 2006 and 2021.
Due to the rising popularity of Li-ion batteries, it’s crucial that businesses and employees who commonly use products and devices powered by lithium-ion batteries understand the associated safety hazards as well as basic handling and storage guidelines to avoid workplace fires and injuries.
Let’s discuss how lithium-ion battery fires start, which fire extinguisher to use, and useful lithium-ion battery safety tips to ensure your employees are prepared and able to prevent these fires from occurring in the workplace.
Why Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Catch Fire?
Should you worry about your cell phone or computer spontaneously catching on fire? Don’t worry; the chances of it happening are slim.
There are two basic types of lithium-ion battery failure. The first involves a defect within the manufacturing of the battery, and when the defect is discovered, Li-ion batteries are typically recalled. For example, two different battery flaws in the Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone lead to two separate recalls and, ultimately, the permanent withdrawal of the model from the market.
The second type of battery failure is hard to pinpoint. It’s usually the result of a stress event such as vibration, an electrical short, or could simply be a fluke. As Battery University explains:
“A mild short will only cause elevated self-discharge and the heat buildup is minimal because the discharging power is very low. If enough microscopic metallic particles converge on one spot, a sizable current begins to flow between the electrodes of the cell, and the spot heats up and weakens. As a small water leak in a faulty hydro dam can develop into a torrent and take a structure down, so too can heat buildup damage the insulation layer in a cell and cause an electrical short. The temperature can quickly reach 500°C (932°F), at which point the cell catches fire or it explodes.”
How to Extinguish a Lithium-Ion Battery Fire
Despite their name, lithium-ion batteries used in consumer products do not contain any lithium metal. Therefore, a Class D fire extinguisher is not to be used to fight a lithium-ion battery fire. Class D fire extinguishers, which contain dry powder, are intended for combustible metal fires only. Since lithium-ion batteries aren’t made with metallic lithium, a Class D dry powder extinguisher would not be effective.
So, how do you choose the right fire extinguisher in this scenario? Lithium-ion batteries are considered a Class B fire, so a standard ABC or dry chemical fire extinguisher should be used. Class B is the classification given to flammable liquids. Lithium-ion batteries contain liquid electrolytes that provide a conductive pathway, so the batteries receive a Class B fire classification.
The Ultimate Guide to fire extinguishers
Download the Ultimate Guide to Fire Extinguishers to learn more about the different types of fire extinguishers.Learn →
Lithium-Ion Battery Safety Tips for Employees
Workplace injuries from lithium-ion batteries are preventable with continual employee education. Here are some lithium-ion battery safety tips to help businesses and their employees prevent workplace fires and injuries.
- Always follow local, state, and federal regulations on proper battery disposal
- Adhere to manufacturer guidelines when extinguishing small battery fires
- Only use the battery that is designed for the device
- Only use the charging cord that came with the device
- Keep batteries in their original packaging
- Keep batteries at room temperature
- Avoid placing batteries in direct sunlight or in hot vehicles
- Store batteries in dry areas with adequate ventilation
- Store devices and batteries in a fire-resistant container
- Remove batteries from their charger when fully charged
- Do not charge a device under pillows or on a couch
- Purchase and use devices that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory
- Replacement batteries and chargers should match and come from the original manufacturer or an authorized reseller
- Avoid non-uniform stacking of boxes containing batteries as it can lead to tipping
- Inspect for damage and batteries before use. If defects are found, do not use and place them away from flammable materials
- Immediately remove a device if a battery feels hot or shows damage
Prevent Lithium-Ion Battery Fires and Keep Your Workplace Safe
As the rate of lithium-ion battery fires continues to increase, companies need to understand how to prevent and extinguish these fires to keep their workplace safe and operational. While having safety procedures put in place is important, businesses should partner with an experienced fire protection company to ensure they have the right type of fire extinguisher that can quickly extinguish a lithium-ion battery fire if and when it occurs.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on August 11, 2017, and has been updated for accuracy and current best practices.
Lawyers for Victims of Battery Explosions and Fires
Lithium-ion batteries are used in a countless number of products. Unfortunately, certain conditions and defects can cause these batteries to explode, leading to devastating injuries. The product liability lawyers at Parker Waichman LLP represent victims of exploding batteries and the damage they cause, and we can help you get compensation if you’ve been harmed by a dangerous battery defect. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER today for a free case evaluation.
What Is a Lithium Battery?
A lithium-ion battery is different from something like a typical AA or AAA battery because it’s rechargeable and often built directly into the device that it’s powering. Many manufacturers favor lithium batteries because of their long life. Laptops and phones use these batteries because of the large amount of power that can contained in a small battery.
Can Lithium Batteries Explode?
Yes, lithium batteries can explode. While they are efficient power storage devices, many aspects of their design make them potentially dangerous.
Why Do Batteries Explode?
These batteries contain two types of electrodes: the cathode and the anode. A thermoplastic substance called polypropylene separates the cathode from the anode. However, as we’ve made devices smaller, this protective layer has shrunk, too. If the cathode and anode accidentally touch, this can ignite flammable liquid inside the battery. When this happens, the battery’s temperature increases and intense pressure builds up, which causes the battery to explode.
Batteries aren’t designed to explode, so when they do, a battery defect is usually to blame. Design or manufacturing errors can leave the battery without proper ventilation or with jagged pieces that damage the polypropylene shield. Poorly made chargers can also cause batteries to overheat, and dropping a device can cause pressure in the battery, leading to an explosion. There is also some concern that lithium batteries explode on plane trips because of the change in air pressure.
How Hot Can a Battery Get Before It Explodes?
When the cathode and anode touch, the inside of a battery can reach more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the flammable materials inside can ignite or explode, causing severe burns, fires, and other injuries.
What Products Contain Lithium Batteries and Explode?
From vape injuries to explosive battery car accident cases, lithium-ion batteries have caused injuries in a multitude of products and devices. These batteries are so commonly used that they can be found in many items people use every day, including:
- Electric cars
- Electric bikes
- GPS systems
- Electric wheelchairs
- Bluetooth speakers
Vape accidents are of special concern because of the frequency of battery explosions. From 2015 to 2017, more than 2,000 people visited the emergency room due to burns and other injuries related to exploding vape pen batteries.
Tesla has also come under scrutiny over the safety of their batteries after reports of explosions and even tragic deaths in Indianapolis.
What to Do if a Lithium Ion Battery Explodes
A lithium-ion battery fire can be doused with water. You can also use a Class D fire extinguisher on device. Once the fire is extinguished, place the battery outside, as further cells within the battery can catch fire as chemical reactions continue. If you have been injured or the fire is at risk of spreading, contact emergency services for help. After that, you can consider contacting our lawyers for a free consultation on a potential battery defect case. Make sure to keep the remains of the battery as evidence, sealed away safely.
I Was Injured by a Battery Defect: Can I Sue?
If you’ve been injured by a defective battery, contact Parker Waichman as soon as possible, as you may be able to get compensation by filing a product defect lawsuit. We’ll examine your case for free and help you determine whether you should take legal action against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of your defective battery.
Contact Parker Waichman’s Defective Battery Attorneys Today
The experienced product defect attorneys at Parker Waichman are well-equipped to handle cases related to lithium battery accidents. Whether you were injured by a vape accident, an exploding battery in a phone, or a defective battery in a scooter or wheelchair, contact us today: We’ll help you determine who is responsible for the damages you’ve suffered and hold them accountable.
We all have the right to safely use battery-powered devices and to trust that defective batteries will be kept out of the hands of consumers. When this doesn’t happen, consumers suffer, and we’re here to help them seek justice. Call 1-800-YOUR-LAWYER today for your free case evaluation.
Lithium-Ion Battery Accident News
Two Deaths Connected to Recalled Rogue Hoverboards Made By Jetson Electric Bikes According to a news report, one model of hoverboards were recalled following two deaths. Two girls died from inhaling smoke when their hoverboard caught fire in their house. Jetson Electric Bikes and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) are recalling over 50,000 of their Rogue model hoverboards due to potential fire hazards. The Rogue hoverboards being… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
E-bike Lithium-Ion Battery Fires Cause Two Fatalities and Over Twenty Fires in New York City STATEN ISLAND, N.Y According to officials, lithium ion batteries used in e-bikes and e-scooters have caused almost two dozen fires in New York City in 2023, resulting in 36 injuries and two deaths. This is four times the number of fires compared to the same time last year. New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
E-cigarette Lithium-ion 18650 Cells Fire Lawsuits CPSC Warns E-cigarette Lithium-ion 18650 Cells Present a Serious Fire Risk USA. According to a safety news report posted on mybigplunge.com, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a new safety warning concerning 18650 cells used in electronics such as vapes, e-cigarettes, flashlight lights, and toys. The CPSC warns that 18650 cells pose a significant… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
MacBook Pro Fires SEATTLE, Wash. — Apple publicized warnings about older 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop computers with retina display because the computer catches fire or burn the user because of a battery malfunction. According to a story published in Consumer Reports on June 20, 2019, Apple sold the faulty computers between September 2015 and February of 2017. The announcement… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
Small Batteries A Risk To Children Small Batteries Present Serious Dangers To Children. We have been advocating stronger safety regarding a vast variety of consumer products; however, few issues are more important than the safety of our children, who are often the most seriously at risk. One of the hidden dangers in many consumer products are those small button batteries found in… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
Remote Control Helicopters with Lithium Batteries Pose Fire, Burn Risks CPSC Warned Consumers About Remote Control Helicopters. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, consumers are being warned about another dangerous toy. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), remote control helicopters powered by lithium-ion or lithium-polymer batteries may pose a fire and burn hazard. Because technological advances have made toy remote control… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
Two Recalls for Burn Hazards CPSC Issued Recalls Over Burn Hazards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued two releases announcing recalls over products that pose burn hazards. Approximately 1,700 DiNotte Lighting Lithium-Ion Batteries used with bicycle lights have been recalled by DiNotte Lighting due to a burn hazard. AA Portable Power Corporation of Richmond, California is the manufacturer and… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
Sony Recalls 100,000 Lithium-Ion Batteries Due to Fire Hazard Sony Recall Lithium-Ion Batteries. Sony is recalling more lithium-ion batteries used in Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Dell laptop computers because they pose a fire hazard. According to the company, the batteries can overheat and cause a fire. The Sony recall includes 35,000 lithium-ion batteries in the United States and, and an addition 65,000 worldwide. According to the… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
Toy Helicopter Batteries Recalled for Fire Hazards CPSC Announced Recalls Of Toy Helicopter. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in collaboration with two firms, has announced two voluntary product recalls. One recall is for a battery-operated helicopter and the other is for propane-fueled flame weeders. Both recalls have been initiated over fire hazards. Reports of problems have been received in both cases. Hobbico… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
Lithium Batteries, Chargers Included with Model Helicopters Recalled CPSC Recall Announced Of Lithium Batteries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in cooperation with Hobby-Lobby International, Inc., today announced a voluntary recall of lithium-polymer battery chargers and lithium-polymer batteries sold with the AT600 Falcon Helicopter kit due to fire hazard. According to the CPSC, about 3,200 of the lithium-polymer battery chargers and lithium-polymer batteries,… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
CPSC AND BELKIN CORPORATION ANNOUNCE RECALL OF BATTERIES Belkin Corp. Announced The Recall Of Li-Polymer Battery Packs. The CPSC, in cooperation with Belkin Corporation of Comptom, California, announced the product safety recall of approximately 10,300 Li-Polymer battery packs sold with Bluetooth™ Global Positioning System (GPS) Navigation System manufactured in China. Customers should stop using the product immediately unless otherwise instructed. The battery can… Read more lithium-ion battery accident news.
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The Ultimate Guide to the 18650 Battery
We get a lot of questions about the difference between rechargeable batteries and common one-time use batteries like AA AAA batteries. Between different brands, strengths and confusing names, it can be easy to get lost when trying to research different types of rechargeable batteries and how to best care for them. We put together a complete list of our most frequently asked questions about 18650 batteries to help you understand how to get the very most out of your Fenix light and battery life.
What is an 18650 Battery?
An 18650 battery is a lithium-ion battery. The name derives from the battery’s specific measurements: 18mm x 65mm. For scale, that’s larger than an AA battery. The 18650 battery has a voltage of 3.6v and has between 2600mAh and 3500mAh (mili-amp-hours). (Osborne, 2019) These batteries are used in flashlights, laptops, electronics and even some electric cars because of their reliability, long run-times, and ability to be recharged hundreds of times over. 18650 batteries are what would be considered a “high drain battery.” This means that the battery is designed to generate high output voltage and current to meet the power demands of the portable device in which it is being used. Hence why these powerful little batteries are utilized in more complex, power-hungry electronics that require a constant, high level of power for operation. It also has a high depth of discharge, meaning that the battery can be drained all the way down to 0% and still have the capacity to fully recharge the battery. However, this is not recommended practice, as overtime this will cause long term damage to the battery and affect its overall performance. Learn more about caring for and enhancing the life of your 18650 later in the article.
History of the 18650 Battery
The lithium-ion battery was first invented in the 1970’s by an Exxon researcher named Michael Stanley Whittingham. His pioneering work to create the first version of the lithium ion battery then set in motion decades more research to finetune the battery to be as efficient and safe as possible. Then in 1991, a team of researchers and scientists named John Goodenough, Rachid Yazami, and Akira Yoshino worked together to develop and bring to market the lithium ion cell. The very first lithium ion battery cells were mass produced and sold by Sony. (Neverman et al., 2020) Since then, tweaks and enhancements have been made to extend the output and lifespan of the battery. Each of these changes resulted in a more efficient battery and in turn, a higher demand for their use and applications in the market. Today, lithium-ion batteries dominate the battery industry and have become ubiquitous in many household products we use everyday. There’s a very good chance you own many products powered by 18650 batteries, whether you realize it or not. As of 2011, lithium-ion batteries account for 66% of all portable rechargeable battery sales. (Osborne, 2019)
How a 18650 Battery Works
There are two types of 18650 batteries: protected and unprotected. As a rule of thumb, we always recommend using protected 18650 batteries. 18650 protected batteries have an electric circuit embedded within its packaging. This circuit protects the battery from “over charges” and “over discharges.” Both are situations you want to avoid. When a battery over charges, it can overheat, burst or catch fire.
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how this malfunction can cause some serious problems for both the user and the manufacturer of the batteries. In fact, In 2016, Samsung released its newest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7. It didn’t take long for reports to begin coming that the phones were exploding while charging. There had been a flaw in the design of the phone’s lithium ion battery that caused it to short circuit and catch fire.
Two separate recalls were put in place by the The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, covering 1.9 million phones in the United States. Globally, to date, 96 percent of the 3 million phones that were sold have been returned. The debacle cost Samsung a pretty penny and a damaged reputation because of the number of fires and injuries the phones caused. It should be noted that the batteries within these phones were not specifically 18650, they were a larger, different type of 3500mAh lithium ion battery.
But for how widely used these batteries are, it seems like it is one of those easily overlooked technologies that we take for granted. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed, there’s a very good chance we used some kind of 18650 battery. We don’t really realize how much they really do for us throughout our daily lives. Perhaps it’s because lithium-ion batteries are rarely seen on their own, instead they’re always encased inside the object they are charging. Not a lot of people take the time to consider how their electric toothbrush works, let alone how the batteries powering the toothbrush work.
There is actually a lot going on inside the battery’s tiny, colorful packaging. While the battery is being charged, the positive electrode lithium-cobalt oxide gives up some of it’s lithium ions which travel through the electrolyte to the negatively charged graphite electrode on the opposite side of the battery. The ions remain there until the battery is in use, during which the lithium ions travel back to the positive electrode, producing energy and powering the battery as it does so. In both the charging and discharging instances, electrons are flowing in the opposite direction of the ions around the outer circuit of the battery. (Osborne, 2019) The flow of ions through the electrolyte and electrons through the outer circuit are an interconnected process. One does not and can not happen without the other. Thus, should the battery completely discharge and the ions stop moving through the electrolyte, the electrons can’t make their way through the outer circuit and power is lost.
In the same way, should you turn off the object your battery is powering, the electrons will stop flowing through the circuit and so too will the ions. In essence, the battery stops discharging at a high rate. It should be noted that the battery will still continue to discharge at a very slow rate, regardless of whether the appliance is connected. Hence why you should always check the power level of your batteries every month or two in appliances that get more infrequent use.
What makes lithium-ions different from more simplistic batteries is their electronic controllers. These can be found only in the aforementioned “protected” batteries. Electronic controllers are built-in systems that regulate how the battery charges and discharges. It’s meant to prevent any overcharging or overheating that can, in some cases like the Galaxy Note 7 incident, cause lithium-ion batteries to explode. Using an unprotected lithium-ion battery can be tricky business to the uninitiated battery user. They are designed much more simply, meaning there is less of a chance for something to malfunction and are a bit smaller than protected batteries so they can fit into tighter spaces. However, the lack of protection opens the door to higher risks of overheating and explosion. Using unprotected batteries will, in general, yield the same performance but require more vigilance when it comes to charging and discharging.
Average Cost of a 18650 Battery
The cost of a 18650 battery can range widely depending on the brand, package size and whether it is a protected or unprotected battery. For example, the Fenix 18650 battery can range in price from 9.95 to 22.95 (these batteries are cheaper than most other brands when factoring in discounts), depending on the particular battery variation you are interested in. These batteries have a USB charging port right on the side of the battery itself, making recharging simple. They are at a bit higher price point than others because they are built with safety as a top priority, boasting three sets of overheating protection to prevent short circuiting so you can get up to 500 charge cycles out of a single battery without cause to worry about explosion or over discharging. Some unprotected batteries on the market can be found at cheaper prices, but as with anything you buy online, it’s important to factor in more to your purchase decision than just the price.
Pro Tip: As a general rule, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. We suggest always buying any kind of technology, especially potentially dangerous ones like lithium-ion batteries, from a trusted source or name brand manufacturer.
Buying improperly manufactured or poorly made chemically-based products can yield unpleasant results, causing injury and destroying the appliance you were meaning to power. Before purchasing batteries online, it might be a good idea to check reviews from past customers or online tech forums to make sure you’re making a safe choice that also fits your power needs.
Different Types Uses of 18650 Batteries
There are as many brands of 18650 batteries as there are uses. 18650 batteries are some of the most versatile on the market. They can be used to power just about anything, from electric cars to digital cameras.
As stated before, it is important to do your research beforehand when it comes to purchasing such potentially dangerous, though extremely useful products. Electric cars, such as the Tesla Model X and Model S. is what is known as a BEV, aka: battery electric vehicle.
These cars are powered by a hoard of lithium ion cells all working together. The Model S is powered by a battery pack that contains over 7,104 18650 cells capable of storing up to 85 kWh of energy. Recently, Tesla engineers have redesigned a new battery pack for their electric cars to hold 516 cells in each module for a total of 8,256 cells capable of storing a little more than 100 kWh of energy. This makes it possible for these electric cars to have a max range of over 300 miles on a single charge. It is a marvel to see how far scientists and engineers have come to in such a relatively short time. Everyday new improvements and enhancements are pushing the bounds of what this technology can do, how we think about electricity, and what role it will play in our everyday lives in the future.
How to Charge 18650 Battery
Depending on the brand of 18650 battery, you might need to charge your batteries as they were designed. But, for the most part, you don’t really need a specific type of charger or special cord to recharge your batteries – as long as it’s rated safe to charge lithium ion batteries. If you use a charger that is not meant for lithium ion battery types, it could result in, at best, permanent damage to your batteries and at worst, they could explode. Some batteries, such as the Fenix 18650 battery detailed above, actually are charged directly using simply a USB cord.
To get the very most out of your battery’s life span, we suggest making sure that your batteries are never fully discharged or drop too low in power if you can help it. Totally discharging the battery makes the ion transfer process much harder when it comes time to recharge the battery, thus limiting the capacity of the battery as a whole. The same is true for overcharging your batteries. Intaking too much power at once can put stress on the cells and cause damage in the long run. Instead, experts suggest “partial” charges to extend the overall lifespan of your batteries. While this does mean you might have to charge your batteries more often, it will save you time and money in the long run by helping you get the very most out of your existing batteries, saving you from the need to buy more.
How Long Do 18650 Batteries Last?
Most 18650 batteries have a life cycle of around 300-500 charge cycles. For example, Fenix batteries are rated for 500 cycles. This means that the battery will be able to fully charge to at least 80% of its initial capacity. Once it reaches that threshold, the battery’s “life cycle” is considered over. Though you can still probably get plenty more charges out of the battery, it’s capacity will slowly diminish further with time.
Most of us have all experienced this first hand when buying a new smartphone. Time and use will slowly diminish the battery’s life capacity, even with careful charging considerations. Extreme hot or cold temperatures can affect your battery life, as well.
Pro Tip: Make sure to never charge your 18650 batteries in below freezing temperatures! This can cause significant degradation and damage. For example, don’t leave your batteries to charge in a freezing garage in the winter.
How Long Does It Take to Charge a 18650 Battery?
The average 18650 battery takes about 4 hours total to charge. Of course, this can vary a bit based on the health of your battery and the type of charger you are using. To check the health of your 18650 battery, try to take note of how long it takes the battery to charge up, whether it is accumulating more heat than usual while it charges, if it is not producing as much power as it once did, or holding a charge as well. These are all indicators that your battery is reaching its end of life.
650 Battery Storage Best Practices
18650 batteries need to be stored in a dry, room temperature space. Avoid any situations that might subject your batteries to either extreme cold or heat. Between the range of.20 to 50°C (-4°F to 122°F) is sufficient but the most optimal storage temperature is somewhere around 77°F or 25°C. If you are planning on storing your batteries over a long period of time, it is actually better to have them charged at around 50% rather than 100%. This will help extend the lifespan of your batteries over time. Make sure to remove the batteries from it’s application before long term storage. For example, if you use your rechargeable batteries in a flashlight, take them out to be stored separately.
Pro Tip: Never store batteries in a or bag that also includes any metal items such as keys, pins, or coins. This might cause accidental discharge. (battery Instructables, 2017)
How to Discard Batteries Safely
Once your 18650 battery has reached the end of its life span, it is important to dispose of them responsibly. Never simply through these batteries into the trash! Though lithium ion batteries do not contain as many of the dangerous chemicals as other batteries, they still are considered hazardous waste and can cause fires or leak harmful chemicals into the earth. Many electronic or home improvement stores will have battery drop off zones or hazardous waste collection bins where you can get rid of your dead batteries without potentially causing environmental damage. Stores or collection centers will then send these batteries to recycling centers where they can harvest the metals inside to be reused. This is the most environmentally-friendly and economical way to dispose of old, damaged, or leaking batteries.
Rechargeable Batteries, Accessories and Flashlights
If you are in the market for a new rechargeable battery, flashlight or accessory. Fenix Lighting has been a trusted leader in rechargeable lighting solutions for decades. We offer state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery technology. Our rechargeable batteries and lighting solutions provide some of the very best in efficiency, performance, and lifespan in the industry. With thousands of satisfied customers and counting, our customers and fans come back to us again and again because they know when they buy Fenix, they are getting reliable, quality products backed by a full guarantee. Give our lineup a look or feel free to contact our friendly customer service line for recommendations or advice.