When I started vaping in 2014, the most popular choice of device was one of the many EGO Style Pen mods available on the market at the time. These ‘mods’ all came with an internal vape battery which couldn’t be removed and had to be charged within the device. In the relatively early days of vaping, a couple of regulated box mods had also been released (anyone else still rocking the Innokin MVP or Cool Fire 1?!) and these sported an external vape battery. Incidentally, I still own both of those mods and yes, believe it or not they still work!
However, since then the world of vaping has evolved at a mind-blowing pace. There are literally thousands of different mods on the market! Some designed to produce a seriously huge amount of power/watts!
As such, the demand placed on your vape battery of choice is increasing with each new mod released! As a result, it’s never been more important to understand how your vape battery works and, more importantly, how to use it safely.
So, let’s get the basic stuff out the way…
Ok, let’s start from scratch
If we’re going to look at batteries, we need to first at least understand how they function as part of your vape setup. So…
Any setup you use is essentially comprised of the following parts:
Housing; basically the mod itself, either a simple tube mod, EGO Pen, box mod etc. Designed to hold the vape battery and any electronic components to allow for variable power, safety features (such as short circuit protection) etc.
Clearomiser/Tank; your tank of choice houses the coil, wick and e-liquid which screws into the housing via a 510 thread.
Drip Tip; which connects to the tank and allows the lucky user to inhale that sweet (or sour, I won’t judge!) vapour.
Within reason, these various parts are interchangeable; different tanks can be used on different mods and work via the same method. The battery within the mod (whether internal or external) is operated via the firing button. This passes voltage to the 510 connector, which is applied to the coil in your tank.
The coil has a specific resistance and when this voltage is applied to it, current is drawn from the vape battery to heat it. This in turn will vaporise the e-liquid stored in the tank and provide the vapour you’ve been so desperately waiting for!
If you’re new to vaping (or want to help a friend or family member quit the dreaded cancer sticks!) be sure to check out our guide to vaping for beginners!
Anything else I need to know?
Something to keep in mind; one crucial difference when talking about mods and batteries is the difference between a mechanical mod/hybrid mod and a regulated mod. A mechanical mod takes power DIRECTLY from the vape battery, which means it’s important to know that the battery is capable of providing the current required to fire the coil.
This is where it gets tricky…
Without an understanding of vape battery dynamics and Ohms law, you could end up damaging the battery. Or worse, damaging your fingers!
As mentioned, the other option is a regulated mod, in which the vape battery drives a ‘Chip Set’ within the device, regulating the current drawn to the coil. This is generally driven by parameters set on the mod to determine voltage or power drawn. Essentially, protecting the vape battery (and your fingers!) from damage, explosion etc.
Ok, so now that’s out the way, how do I know what vape battery to choose?
Now we’re going to look at the many different types of vape battery available and the terminology used…
With internal batteries, there’s very little to worry about. You just charge, using the supplied charging cable, and vape. It’s recommended to charge until the battery is at full capacity but not essential if you’re in a rush.
A word of warning though; you’re not supposed to leave the mod unattended while charging. Internal batteries use LiPo (Lithium Polymer) which a quick Google search will tell you is NOT particularly safe chemically. In fact, researching this battery type you’d be forgiven for thinking it may try to kill you while you sleep and steal your car…
However, they’re widely used in phones, laptops etc and are perfectly safe provided the device you’re using has adequate protection circuitry.
The obvious disadvantage of using a mod with an internal battery?
Once the vape battery is no longer chargeable or breaks, the mod becomes useless! It’s also worth mentioning, you’re unable to use the mod while charging unless it has a ‘pass-through’ facility.
External batteries are a completely different ball game, commonly broken down into two main categories; Protected and Unprotected.
Batteries have a small circuit board, usually on the bottom of the vape battery, that stops the charging or discharge of the battery in certain circumstances, such as Over-Charge, Over-Discharge and Short-Circuit. These tend to be slightly longer because of the circuitry and are normally classed as ICR.
Batteries have no additional circuitry and should be charged carefully (I’ll explain in more detail further on). They provide nominally 3.7 volts of power, 4.2 volts when fully charged and slowly discharge when used. Once the vape battery is discharged below approx 3 volts, they must be charged again.
Discharging the battery below 3 volts could damage the battery and it’ll no longer be usable. On the flip-side, charging above 4.2 volts could also damage the battery. Therefore, it’s important to invest in a safe charger that’s designed to stop charging at 4.2 volts. Unprotected batteries are normally classed as IMR or INR.
Both Protected and Unprotected batteries come in either ‘Flat Top’ or ‘Button Top’. This means that the positive electrode (end) of the battery is either Flat or Button, with most mods using the ‘Flat Top’ type.
Right, lets delve down a bit…
Most external vape batteries are Lithium Iron (li-ion) and consist of three parts: the cathode (+), the anode (-), and the electrolyte (bit in the middle).
The anode of all 18650 li-ion batteries is basically the same; carbon/silicon and graphite. The cathode, however, is where batteries differ, which is what gives each model its unique characteristics.
One of the trade-offs with cathode chemistry is between energy, capacity, cycle life, and safety. For instance, with ICR (cobalt-based) batteries, the chemistry is both high energy and high capacity, but not especially safe. IMR is safer, but has lower capacity than ICR. Adding nickel to manganese (IMR) gives it a higher specific energy.
The coding used by manufacturers on the battery designates the different chemistry of the battery as follows:
I = Lithium Ion
C/M/F = Cobalt/Manganese/Iron Phosphate Chemistry
R = Rechargeable
IMR – Li-manganese:
Many of the high-drain vape batteries have IMR chemistry. This allows your battery to discharge at a high current while maintaining low temperatures. This means that it’s safer than many of the older ICR batteries. Most IMR batteries don’t require extensive built-in protective circuitry.
INR – Lithium manganese nickel:
The reigning champ of the 18650 vaping world. This chemistry adds nickel to the IMR chemistry above, making it a “hybrid” chemistry. It combines the safety and low resistance of manganese and the high energy of nickel.
The resulting battery chemistry gives you a reasonably high capacity and a high discharge current. More importantly for vapers, the chemistry is far more stable, meaning you don’t need expensive built-in protective circuits.
ICR – Li-cobalt:
The big one! This chemistry delivers the highest energy of any 18650 battery, but at a cost. They are the most dangerous li-ion 18650 batteries available! This is also a problem for high-current discharging, as you cannot safely discharge them at a higher current than their mAh rating.
Because of this dilemma, they are usually fitted with protective circuitry making them a protected cell. This type of battery is not recommended for vaping!
Never mix different chemistry type batteries in a dual or triple mode device. Equally, always keep a matched pair of batteries of the same charge in a dual mod, keeping them charged using a reliable, well known battery charger rather than in the mod itself.
Remember, the slower the charge (typically 750mA), the longer the battery will last. Always buy good brand batteries of a known make, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG etc. NEVER buy any battery with the name “Fire” in it.
We’ve covered the best 18650 batteries for vaping in a separate post, be sure to check it out!
So now I’ve scared you half to death with threats of battery related mayhem, let’s have a look at the different vape battery sizes available…
When it comes to battery size, you’re spoilt for choice. There are various different sizes available, however the most popular are the following:
At the time of writing, several of the more recent mods released are using the 20700 and 21700 size vape battery. However, the most extensively used battery to date is the 18650.
These numbers essentially refer to the length and diameter of the vape battery. The first 2 digits are the dimension measuring across, with the remaining 3 digits reference to the length of the battery. Protected circuits will add between 2mm and 3mm to the length of the battery. Therefore an unprotected 18650 battery measures 18mm across its width and 65mm in length.
What about battery Current and Capacity?
Batteries can basically be specified by two characteristics:
Capacity (mAh rating) and Amps (current handling). When choosing a vape battery for your mod, it’s important to pick one which best suits your vaping needs.
Batteries with higher Milliamp Hours (battery life) tend to have a lower discharge rate (lower Amperage, or how much power they can deliver at once). This makes them more suitable for lower wattage devices.
On the flip-side, a vape battery with lower Milliamp Hours will tend to have a higher discharge rating (higher Amperage). And you guessed it, this makes them more suitable for higher wattage devices. There is always a compromise between the two.
Capacity or mAh Rating:
This is a manufacturing standard to identify how long a battery should last from 100% charge right down to fully discharged. A 3000mAh battery can run 3 Amps for 1 hour before full discharge.
Amp Rating/Continuous Discharge Rate (CDR):
The maximum electrical current at which the battery can be discharged continuously before the battery will fail. The “pulse or burst discharge rate” is not a standard measurement and varies from one manufacturer to another. The CDR is the safe operating limit of the cell. NEVER exceed this value otherwise the vape battery could vent or even explode!
So how do I charge my vape battery?
Ok, so we’ve covered the different types of batteries, the different sizes and the basic principle of use. Let’s take a look at another important aspect of using a vape battery; charging.
Internal batteries are charged via a micro USB cable, one end plugged into the mod and the other into either a USB device or a mains outlet.
External batteries require the use of a good quality battery charger. This is the safest way to charge your vape battery, whatever the size or variety. Charging properly with a reliable charger is guaranteed to prolong the life of your battery.
Several good chargers are available on the market, some single chargers, double chargers (2 batteries) and 4 x chargers. A good charger will charge each battery slot independently of the other and automatically detect the type of vape battery in the slot. It’s also important to choose a charger that delivers a charge at an appropriate rate, safe for the battery. The more advanced chargers available will also show you the static and charging rate in either LED’s or numeric value.
Personally, I would go for the best you can afford at the time as it’ll pay dividends in the future. I use this Nitecore D4, which has all the aforementioned features and is extremely reliable.
A couple of things to remember when charging…
Battery duty cycle:
Approximate number of recharges a vape battery can undergo before it’ll no longer hold a charge. Duty cycles can be as high as 500 charges but will vary depending on the specific battery type.
While a lithium ion battery doesn’t have “battery memory”, the capacity of the battery will decrease over time as you use it, until finally it’ll no longer hold a charge. You don’t have to fully discharge the battery before charging it like you do with many other rechargeable batteries. You can also use it from the outset without first having to charge it.
Just keep in mind, you’ll get longer life expectancy from a battery if you don’t drain them down each time you use them. Charging before the battery is drained will prolong the overall life expectancy. Consistently draining a battery to 3.2 volts or lower before re-charging will decrease battery life expectancy.
Long term storage of batteries:
Lithium batteries should be stored at 40% capacity at room temperature (69 degrees F).
Vape Battery Safety
Ok, let’s finish things up with a brief overview of how to use your chosen vape battery safely!
Buy a good quality vaping mod:
This is a bit of an obvious one but it really can make a difference. It’s worth spending the cash to get a well made, reliable mod as it greatly reduces the risk of battery venting or explosion.
Do your research before selecting the right battery:
If you’ve purchased a vaping mod that doesn’t come with a built-in battery, you’ll need to choose your own. Most standalone vape mods don’t have batteries included, so buying high quality rechargeable batteries for them from reputable brands is crucial.
Buy a high quality smart charger:
Explosions can occur due to overcharging or discharging of batteries. A smart charger offers more safety features than a regular charger.
Use a battery case for transportation:
It’s crucial to always carry your extra batteries in either a case or a silicone battery sleeve. DON’T leave them loose in your bag or pockets. If batteries come into contact with metal objects such as coins or keys, this can damage the battery or even cause it to explode! This is because the interaction can complete a circuit between the positive and negative.
Use the correct charging cable:
Using a different cable to that which your device came with can damage your battery. This is because the cable may have a higher voltage than your battery which will cause your device to overheat.
Never use damaged batteries:
Using a damaged battery will never end well. If it’s not working properly, if the wrapping is damaged or frayed, or your battery fails to keep charge, expose of the battery safely. There are now custom wraps that you can purchase to re-wrap your battery.
Don’t leave your battery charging unattended:
Not keeping an eye on your vaping mod while it’s charging is a safety risk. Most well-made mods have a cut-off point at which they stop charging when fully charged. BUT unfortunately this function, as with any, isn’t guaranteed to be totally without issue. In order to avoid overcharging your battery, make sure you check it regularly and never charge at night while you’re sleeping.
Don’t exceed the amps of your battery:
Understanding Ohms Law is a vital part of battery safety. Take the discharge rate (the amps), divide it by your voltage level by coil resistance (ohms) and never exceed this rating. For more information, please see our Ohms Law guide or our Ohms Law Calculator.
Don’t charge or rest your device on flammable surfaces:
Never rest your mod on a pillow or flammable surface. It’s also important to prevent exposure to direct sunlight. Therefore, don’t leave it in your car or on your windowsill for long periods of time.
Don’t mix and match sets of batteries or battery chargers:
While many batteries and chargers may look the same, you should never mix and match. The voltage output may be different which will damage your batteries.
Never over-discharge your battery:
This can be as harmful as overcharging your device and can cause serious damage to your battery.
So there you have it folks, we hope you found this battery guide helpful. We’ll be posting a stacking/configuration guide and best battery guide soon, so be sure to come back and check those out! Please feel free to share or comment below.
Images courtesy of: