Since the dawn of the vaping industry as we know it, virtually all of the world’s vaping devices have used either purpose-built fixed internal batteries or removable 18650 batteries. The 18650 cell is the world’s most popular lithium ion battery format. Why, then, are there so many different types of vaping batteries available today? One reason is that people who are picky about their batteries look for cells with certain specifications. The second reason, though, is attributable to the world’s biggest electric car maker. That’s right; you can thank Tesla in part for the variety of vaping batteries available to you. We’ll explain in this comparison of 18650, 26650, 20700 and 21700 batteries.
Vaping Battery Dimensions
When you examine the different types of removable vaping batteries available, you’ll see what might simply look like a confusing mess of numbers. In fact, the numbers simply describe the dimensions of the different battery types. The first two digits indicate the diameter of the battery. The following digits indicate the battery’s length. These are the dimensions of the four common types of vaping batteries.
- 18650 Battery: 65 mm length, 18 mm diameter
- 26650 Battery: 65 mm length, 26 mm diameter
- 20700 Battery: 70 mm length, 20 mm diameter
- 21700 Battery: 70 mm length, 21 mm diameter
Why Are 18650 Batteries So Popular?
The 18650 battery cell has been available since the early 1990s. By experimenting with different chemistries, battery makers have been able to create 18650 cells with ever-increasing capacities and load limits. When it comes to improving the 18650 format further, though, manufacturers have reached a point of diminishing returns. Nevertheless, the 18650 cell has been with us for many years, and it isn’t going away any time soon. It’s likely that the 18650 battery has enjoyed lasting popularity because, compared to the other battery formats available at the time of its introduction, it delivered the best available combination of high capacity and small size. The small size of the 18650 cell made it a perfect choice for laptop batteries. Even today, if your laptop has a removable battery pack, it’s likely that the pack is full of 18650 cells.
The 18650 cell is also common in electric bikes and electric cars, although its window of usefulness in electric cars might be closing. We’ll explain that next.
What Does Tesla Have to Do With Vaping Batteries?
Building a car brand from scratch isn’t easy, and one of the problems that initially prevented Tesla from producing cars in sufficient volumes to satisfy demand was that overseas suppliers were slow in assembling and delivering the required battery packs. Tesla responded to that problem by partnering with Panasonic to build Gigafactory 1, a battery production facility in Reno, Nevada. Gigafactory 1 produces battery cells and assembles battery packs from those cells. It’s world’s biggest battery factory, and Tesla needs still more cells to reach its car production goals.
While building a battery factory has certainly made Tesla more efficient, the company improved its efficiency further by developing a new battery format. The 18650 cell worked well in Tesla’s older vehicles, but Tesla wanted to develop a new type of battery with even greater energy density that could still dissipate heat rapidly from its core. The existing 26650 cell was too wide for rapid heat dissipation. The result of Tesla’s ambition was the 21700 cell. Only slightly larger than the 18650 cell, Tesla’s 21700 cell boasted 35 percent more energy by volume.
This picture shows the interior components of Tesla’s Model 3 21700 and Model S 18650 batteries, rolled out to show their full dimensions.
How much better is the 21700 battery? While the Tesla Model S gets 85 kWh from its 7,104 18650 batteries, the newer Tesla Model 3 needs just 4,416 21700 batteries to achieve a capacity of 75 kWh. Since the Model 3 needs 2,688 less batteries than the Model S, the 21700 battery has also helped Tesla get closer to reaching its production goals.
What Is the Best Battery for Vaping?
Examining the differences between the different types of vaping batteries – and the origins of those batteries – is interesting, but the fact is that the specifications of Tesla’s batteries matter little to you as a vaper because you can’t actually buy battery cells from Tesla. The 21700 batteries that you can buy, in fact, may not have specifications anything like Tesla’s batteries. For the foreseeable future, though, the 21700 battery format – and the slightly smaller 20700 format – appear to be where battery makers will focus most of their research and development efforts.
The 18650 format isn’t going away, though; there are far too many existing laptops, flashlights and vaping devices out there for that to happen. The 26650 battery format, however, does appear to have become mostly irrelevant for vaping. In vaping devices, 20700 and 21700 cells outclass 26650 cells in almost every way. For the rest of this article, let’s eliminate the 26650 cell and discuss 18650 vs. 20700 and 21700 batteries.
18650 vs. 20700/21700 Vaping Batteries
When comparing batteries, it’s important to understand two things.
- Increasing the capacity (mAh) of a battery decreases its ability to handle a load (continuous discharge rating). A battery that can handle an extremely high amperage, then, won’t have a very long operating time. A high-discharge battery might be appropriate for a power tool, for example, while a high-mAh battery would be better for a flashlight. Within any battery format, you’ll find a range of mAh and CDR specifications.
- Any battery marketed as a vaping battery is not made by the company on the label. There are only a few makers of battery cells in the world. In addition to Tesla, those makers include Panasonic, LG, Samsung and Sony. Those companies do not market their batteries for vaping and generally do not sell the batteries directly to end users at all. Other companies such as EFest buy the cells and put their own labels on them. Unfortunately, some of those companies wildly exaggerate the capabilities of the batteries they sell. Before buying any vaping battery, it’s wise to examine that cell’s performance in tests. Mooch’s blog is a highly recommended resource.
Those points aside, it is possible to generalize regarding the capabilities that you can expect an 18650 or 20700/21700 battery to have.
- An 18650 battery appropriate for vaping will have a capacity around 1,500-3,000 mAh and support a continuous discharge of 20-30 amps.
- A 20700/21700 battery appropriate for vaping will have a capacity around 4,000 mAh and support a continuous discharge of 30-45 amps.
Again, it is very wise to find tests of any battery cell before buying it. In general, though, you can expect a 20700/21700 cell to deliver substantially more life and support a much greater load with only a slight increase in size. In fact, there’s very little difference in hand feel between an 18650 mod and a 20700/21700 mod; a manufacturer can easily compensate for the increased size of the battery by designing a mod with a slimmer outer body.
Jason Artman is the owner and author of eCig One. A professional freelance writer and SEO consultant with more than a decade of experience, Jason works with vaping companies around the world to increase their targeted web traffic and improve their revenue
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