Wanted: Quality 18650 3.7V rechargeable cells

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen, who recently mentioned that he’s on the hunt for quality 18650 Li-Ion cells.

Like Mike, I’ve a number of shortwave portables that use 18650 cells, so I understand where he’s coming from: he’d like 18650 cells that are both safe and have a long life. Even though most radios that use 18650 cells have internal chargers, I also assume he’d welcome quality external charger recommendations.

Mike said he’s willing to pay a premium for quality cells but frankly, I’m not sure what to suggest because it seems most of the ones I find are the average eBay and Amazon variety (ie. pretty darn cheap).

I know there are some here in the SWLing Post community who are flashlight enthusiasts and others who are well-versed in the world of rechargeable batteries.

If you have any suggestions, please share them in a comment! Thank you in advance as I’m also keen to hear your comments!

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32 thoughts on “Wanted: Quality 18650 3.7V rechargeable cells

  1. William

    I purchased two 18650 3500mAh Battery Protected Li-ion 3.7V Rechargeable High Performance 10A (Panasonic-Sanyo inside) Free Battery Case Included for $14.50 each from Orbtronic. Made in Japan.

    Reply
  2. jack dully

    I have been getting my 18650’s from: http://www.liionwholesale.com They have an outstanding run time @ 3500 mAh and fully protected.They are about $ 11.00 for each and I have never received a bad one.As someone mentioned before,pick yourself a seperate charger,a smart one,that protects the whole charging cycle,like the Eastshine S4,available at Amazon.The charger can charge 4 cells at a time independantly at a slow-rate (1-2) hours or if your in a rush at the fast rate.The slow is better for long life of the battery and the charger is also protected.Just make sure that you order the right battery for your needs (flat top or button top) Good Luck AND Good Hunting

    Reply
  3. jack dully

    I have been getting my 18650’s from: http://www.liionwholesale.com . They are about $11.00 a pop, protection circutry included, in each one @ 3500 mAh. I get exceptional run time using them.As someone mentioned,get a smart battery charger that charges safely like the Eastshine S4 charger listed on Amazon.You can independingly charge up to 4 cells,slow or fast but slow about 1-2 hours and it is better for the battery long life.Good Luck and good hunting.Just make sure you order the right configuration (flat top or button top)

    Reply
  4. John Drake

    The guys in the flashlight forums have lots of experience in this area (e.g., CandlePowerForums.com).

    They say that defective and counterfeit rechargeable batteries are common so they recommend purchasing directly from the manufacturer’s website on AliExpress:

    Official Fenix Store:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/store/1776033

    Official Shokli Store:
    http://www.aliexpress.com/i/33029598525.html

    I purchased a dozen rechargeable batteries from these sites a year ago and they’re all working fine. 🙂

    Reply
  5. Mike N7MSD

    I’m going against the grain here, but on Craig’s List here is a guy who sells used cells pulled from tool packs and the like. Especially if you have an analyzer this could be a good option.

    I own this particular analyzer and recommend it highly, but while it includes some default settings to keep you from hurting yourself or it you really should know what you’re doing; that is, it’s about as “pro” as you can get without a “pro” price:

    https://www.skyrc.com/MC3000_Charger

    The biggest Pros are Cadence who run Battery University, which everyone here should read and learn. I wish I could afford to buy their stuff if just to support BU but it’s like govt / military price.

    As for Craigslist, here are a couple local examples:

    https://phoenix.craigslist.org/nph/ele/d/phoenix-lithium-batteries/7355805669.html
    https://phoenix.craigslist.org/nph/spo/d/scottsdale-led-flashlights-flashlight/7359158852.html

    I hope this gives you guys some ideas. One last thing: many of these vape and pack cells do NOT have a protection circuit in the cell since the whole pack has one. As mentioned by other commenters, this can can bite you with flames that can’t be put out. Beware! FWIW, there is more and more talk of going totally to LiFePO4 (phosphate) with its no-cobalt and much greater safety at the expense of density for nearly all lithium apps where space isn’t the primary issue. At the other extreme are large LiPoly cells & packs that are literally incendiary hand grenades at high temps & discharges!

    Reply
  6. DanH

    Here are a few more thoughts on Li-ion 18650 cells for portable radios. For Tecsun radio users it would be useful if someone examined the OEM Tecsun 18650 battery. Remove the wrapper from a worn-out Tecsun 18650 and see if it has a protection PCB under the positive terminal or a flat conductor running the length of the cell to the PCB. This will answer once and for all whether the Tecsun battery features safer cell chemistry or is a protected battery. Protected cells could be a possible source of RFI or internal birdies. Well-designed Li-ion cells should be useful for at least 300 charge cycles.

    I do not recommend high drain Li-ion batteries like the Samsung INR 18650-30Q (3000 mAh) for our portables. A short circuit in the power supply of an inexpensive radio could unleash a 15 amp short that could make magic smoke or flames appear from the radio. Better to stick with less ferocious Li-ions for these radios. A modest Li-ion capable of 2 to 4 amp continuous discharge will do the job just as well.

    Reply
  7. Edward

    You don’t know what your getting on Ebay and Amazon. Caviet Emptor b.uyer beware. unless you know the seller. I bought some china AA cells claiming 3000mAh that really only lived up to 300 mAh

    Reply
  8. TomL

    This protected button top Samsung should be useful – https://www.batteryjunction.com/samsung-26j-button.html

    I have a Nitecore “NEW i4” external charger that can charge NiMH/NiCAD, Li-ION, LiFePO4 batteries up to 18650 size. Works good enough. I have stopped buying Li-ION batteries for safety reasons. Eventually they will invent batteries that do not spontaneously explode/burn your house down. NiMH and LiFePO4 batteries are safer.

    Reply
  9. AnonFlashlight

    Long time reader, first time caller. I’m one of the flashlight enthusiasts you mentioned.

    1. Never, ever, ever buy rechargeable 18650s or other Lithium Ion batteries from Amazon or Ebay. The market is filled with dangerous cheap junk from china. Even if they look like one of the ones I’ll mention below, they are fake scams with fake packaging. It’s about supply chains.

    2. 3600 mah is the absolute maximum capacity of 18650 cells, period. (really its like 3550) Anyone or anything that tells you otherwise is lying.

    3. There are really only 4 manufacturers of quality 18650 cells in the world:
    -Samsung
    -LG
    -Sanyo/Panasonic
    -Sony

    I mean that literally. All the cells in electric cars that are just giant sets of 18650s came from one of those 4 factories. Before their battery factory, Teslas and Tesla powerwalls were filled with LG and Panasonic cells.

    Any other brand you find is either: A) Dangerous crap or B) rebranded / resold from one of the big 4.

    4. Only buy from niche retailers that cater to flashlight enthusiasts. MtnElectronics and Illumn are reputable, but there are some others.

    5. MOST IMPORTANT For radio users. Individual 18650 cells come in 2 varieties: Protected and Unprotected. Referring to internal safety circuits. To be safe: Always, Always, Always buy Protected cells, until you really know what you are doing.

    The unprotected cells are for high amperage draw applications and for flashlights that have built in charging protection circuits, which your radio might not have.

    6. A good high capacity, all around useful quality 18650 cell with protection circuit is the Sanyo/Panasonic NCR18650GA Protected 3500mAh
    It should be perfect for most radio applications. However, it is slightly long at 69mm, so if your radio case is especially tight it may not fit.

    https://www.mtnelectronics.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=59_88&product_id=289

    Reply
  10. DanH

    I avoid portable radios that use Li-ion batteries. It is difficult to find quality replacement cells, especially the cylindrical cells like 18650. Li-ion batteries have a high self-discharge rate. They lose charge just sitting on the shelf. I have a few Sangean ATS 909Xs and an ATS-909X2. These are excellent radios for emergency use because they use either non-rechargeable AA batteries (like Duracell) or rechargeable AA NiMH cells. The Sangean 909X2 isn’t a cheap radio. It charges and monitors each AA cell individually inside the radio. The Sangean charges just as well as my outboard Nitecore charger. Either battery type will work in my radios. Quality AA batteries are always easy to find and they keep well in storage.

    Many 18650s found on the market today are Chinese “back door” products. These are sold wholesale as unwrapped cells from the reject bins. They didn’t make spec for one reason or another. They get wrapped with any designer name and imaginary spec anyone could imagine and get sold at high mark-up prices. These are not quality 18650s like those made by Samsung, Sony, or LG.

    After I quit smoking I vaped for a while. I had the opportunity to learn about 18650s. Li-ions are best suited for high drain (high current drain) application like power tools and vaping devices and not portable receiving radios. For transmitters… OK, Li-ion can be very good. Before regulations tightened on Li-ion sales they were easy to find online. My favorite battery is still the Samsung INR 18650-30Q (3000 mAh). Wrapped in a generic pink wrapper these unprotected cells can crank out 15 amps continuously for at least 300 charge cycles. More than good enough for a portable shortwave receiver. I quit vaping some time ago but still have six good 30Qs if I should ever need them again.

    I can’t recommend any online battery shops right now because I quit vaping easily and haven’t purchased quality 18650s for a few years. My favorite Li-ion battery vendor went out of business. Keep in mind that good 18650s like Samsung, Sony and LG are exactly 18 x 65 mm in size. The batteries are made with button top or flat top positive terminals. I’m pretty sure most of the Chinese radios that use 18650s will need button tops for a proper fit. Also, don’t use protected 18650s in radios. The safer chemistry Li-ions don’t need protection circuits and modern devices using Li-ion batteries have protection circuits built into the device. Expect to pay less than $6 – 10 apiece for a quality 18650 online if you can find them. If you pay more than that you are getting robbed.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  11. 13dka

    If you want to play it safe, buy known brand batteries and pay the little extra charge for guaranteed quality. You can’t go wrong with Sony Konion VTCxxx (now obviously also from Murata), Samsung or Panasonic batteries. Avoid eBay and particularly don’t fall for any cheap offers, neither regular capacity nor fake super-high capacity models – the technically feasible capacity is 3.600mAh or something and even the regular cheapo batteries often don’t reach whatever they printed on the plastic sleeve.

    Vaping stores and forums are a good source for general tech and brand advice (with an extra emphasis on safety, nobody wants to have batteries blowing up in their face or in the pocket) but the batteries they use are generally flat top 18650, while flashlights and a few radios want button top models, so flashlight stores are probably your best suppliers.

    I’m personally using an Xtar VP-4 charger, the other known brand for “intelligent” chargers would be Nitecore. If you want to use highest-capacity Panasonic batteries make sure the charger can handle their slightly different charging metrics.

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  12. Desmond Walsh

    Surely the cells shown in the accompanying photo could in no way be ‘8800 mAH ‘ More likely divide that by 10 ! Caveat emptor as they say .
    Des Walsh EI5CD

    Reply
  13. Steve

    As my radios are an integral part of my emergency plans that is why I have stuck with AA cell batteries only passing by those using 18650’s.

    Reply
  14. Egil Ingebrigtsen

    I have noticed that poor battery performance is not always the batteries. If the 18650 batteries in my two portables (TECSUN PL880 and XHDATA D-8089 are charged directly fron an USB charger when still placed in the receivers, none of the batteries will last long before you have to charge or replace them.
    Then I found an external charger marked “iiglo Universal 2A USB charger”. It takes two batteries at the same time, but is happy also with only one.
    Using this charger almost doubles the time the batteries last, and even for the cheapest 18650 batteries!

    73s Egil – LA2PJ

    Reply
    1. Michael Meyer

      That’s exactly my experience as well!

      Charging inside the radio using the build-in charger is not as good as using an outside charger. Mine is a Nitecore, which also have been very cheap, around 25 usd.

      Reply
    2. 13dka

      The charging circuitry is probably OK in the radios. It’s not very obvious until you experienced the difference but it’s often super-cheap and flimsy USB cables leading to a severe voltage drop in front of the micro-USB and subsequently slow and incomplete charging.

      Reply
    3. Troy Riedel

      Yes! Yes, Egil!

      If you value your radio, do not use it to re-charge batteries. Especially volatile Li-Ion. External chargers are safer and they are designed to re-charge. Externals simply do a better job – the circuitry of a quality charger is designed to accurately detect a battery’s voltage level and to re-charge it safely, accurately & ideally.

      With that said, I stay away from generics and always purchase batteries that have a recognized, well-known branding label.

      Good luck mate.

      Reply
  15. Daniel Robinson

    Battery Junction is the best source, but recently there has been a shortage of various cell types.

    Reply
  16. Jacky

    Bonjour ,
    Comme dis vincent , regarder dans les magasins de cigarette electonique ,
    Moi j utilise les mxjo 18650 en 3000 mah ou efest 3000 mah ,mais il y as aussi les marques connus comme LG ,sony et moi je préconise un chargeur indépendant
    J en utilise aussi pour mon transceiver yaesu ft 817
    J’espere avoir repondu a votre question
    Jacky

    Reply
  17. Vince

    Good quality – a big issue with rechargeable batteries/cells of any kind.

    I heard that a good place to try for 18650 cells are e-cigarette stores.

    Reply

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