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Vaping has come a long way since the introduction of the first cig-a-like. In the same way e-cigarettes have evolved, so have the ways we power them. The cig-a-like batteries of yesteryear were pretty easy to understand. We vaped and we charged. Simple. Simple isn’t always better, though. Vapers wanted more. Enter the mech mod. The mech mod brought high-powered batteries, low resistance atomizers, and an undercurrent of danger onto the vape scene. With this ever evolving market, the need for educated consumers is at an all-time high.
I could delve into the science of batteries, how they work, and how they’re made… but, I’d rather not. In truth, there’s a lot of information out there and most of it is boring. I’m not trying to put anyone to sleep. Besides, as far as mod batteries go - what most of you want to know is which battery is the strongest, safest, and longest lasting. Am I right?
What’s the best battery?
One of the most common questions asked about mods is: what’s the best battery? That’s a complicated question. There is no such thing as the best battery. Frustrating, I know. If there’s no unicorn battery out there, how are you supposed to know which battery to buy? Figuring out which battery to buy is easier when you have a basic understanding of the different types of batteries available.
Understanding the Different Types of Batteries
We’ve all been through it before: bought a mod only to realize we need a way to power it. How do we choose from a selection of ten batteries with alien sounding names: LG IMR-18650? Is that even a name? Mod batteries don’t have names per se. Instead, they have model numbers. Don’t freak out. Model numbers are a lot easier to translate than you realize.Battery Manufacturers
Model numbers can be broken into parts to examine what each element means. For starters, a battery model number always begins with the company of manufacture. A no-brainer, I know. Even if that part is obvious, it's not so obvious how important this name is. Consumers are trained to believe generics are the same as their premium counterparts. This may be true for cereal, but cereal isn’t going to combust if it gets too hot and burn down your home. When using something with the potential to blow up in my face, I would prefer it come from a reputable company. For this reason, I use premium batteries and avoid generics.Battery Chemistry
Following the company name is a three letter code. This three letter code describes the battery chemistry. Each code means something different. Using a simple chart we can crack the three letter code:
I = Lithium-Ion
C = Cobalt (positive ion)
F = Iron (positive ion)
M = Manganese (positive ion)
N = Nickel (positive ion)
R = Round Cell
Using this chart, we can see an INR is a round cell lithium-ion battery with a nickel positive ion. Huh? Don’t worry! We’re going to take a look at the more common mod batteries and their chemical make up.
ICR - These Lithium-cobalt batteries are the strongest of the 18650s. They may be the strongest, but they’re also the most dangerous. ICR batteries need built-in protective circuitry to use them in a mod. Protective circuitry is usually added by a third-party company. Considering they aren't safe to discharge at a current higher than their mAh rating, I wouldn't recommend them. I'm not alone in this either. Vape battery experts have pretty much written off ICRs as obsolete at this point.
IFR - Lithium-iron batteries aren’t bad, but they have their shortcomings. Their low 3.2 volts prevents them from joining the pantheon of high-drain batteries.
IMR - You’ll see a lot of lithium-manganese batteries in vape shops. Discharging at a high current without dangerously raising internal temperatures, explains why. Most IMR batteries do not need built-in protective circuitry. All this makes them safer than ICRs.
INR - Lithium-nickel batteries are not true nickel batteries. INRs are manganese-nickel hybrids. Combining the low resistance of manganese batteries with the high energy of nickel, they’ve become an industry favorite.Battery Size
After the manufacturer name and three letter code, a battery model number lists a five digit code. This number is actually two separate numbers with different meanings. The first two digits designate the battery’s diameter in millimeters. The last three digits determine the battery’s length in tenths of millimeters. Thus, an 18650 battery is 18mm round and 65mm long.
What are mAh and amp ratings?
Often when we see a battery model number, we see extra information listed alongside it. For example, Samsung INR-18650 2500mAh. What does mAh mean? A mAh rating refers to the storage capacity available in a particular battery model. A 2500mAh battery has the ability to deliver a 2500mA current for an hour. In other words, the higher the mAh rating, the longer the battery will last. At least this applies when comparing two similar batteries of the same brand. There is no standard for measuring battery capacity. Thus two different manufacturers may measure in different ways. It’s important to research specific brands to get a better idea of the true capacity of their batteries.
More important than a battery’s mAh, is its amp rating. Amp ratings define the maximum electrical current a battery will discharge at before failing. The amp rating often called the "continuous discharge rate," is a standard measurement across the industry. Thanks to amp rating standardization, CDR can be compared across battery brands.
There is no way to have one battery with both the highest mAh and the highest amp rating. Current limits in battery chemistry and technology mean consumers give up a higher capacity for a higher CDR. Beware of battery marketing practices that claim otherwise.
Are protected batteries better than unprotected?
For the most part, the only protected batteries you will find are ICRs. IMR and INR batteries are “safe chemistry” batteries. Safe chemistry batteries do not need built-in protective circuitry. As far as vaping goes, unprotected safe chemistry batteries are safer than protected ICRs.
Ohm’s Law can get pretty complicated, so I'm not going to attempt to lay it all out in this post. However, I can give you some pretty basic guidelines to follow for safety when using a regulated mod:1-3 Ohms
If you are using standard resistance coils, you need a 10A battery. With a resistance this high, you don’t need a battery with higher amps.0.2-0.8 Ohms
Coils under 1 ohm need batteries with higher amp ratings due to their higher amp draw. With sub-ohm resistant coils on a 20W+ mod, you should be using a high amp battery with 20A-30A.
With all the different batteries out there, it’s important for vapers to understand what they are buying. While there may not be a unicorn battery, there are safer batteries than others. Stay in the safe zone — especially if you are new to vaping.