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Trading Standards. Falling, and Coming Soon…

*This blog post is taken from a mailshot sent to all past and present wholesale customers today (12th April 2018) but will ultimately affect and is relevant to all 18650UK customers, any other business involved in the purchase and sale of these batteries in the UK. Its time to start listening…

Before i start and in the interest of full transparency im going to give the names of the only two other businesses like us in the UK that i am currently aware of (and ive looked. Hard.) who can be considered “fully compliant”, ie, they are supplying a fully compliant original manufacturer product. They are Fogstar, and Torchy. Fogstar use a system similar to ours. Torchy re-wraps cells. Both are achieving the same thing.

Trading Standards are on their way into stores…

Are you ready? Are you compliant?

At the end of last year, Ben our Sales Director met for the first time with the UK government representatives for the EU Battery Directive to discuss the use of 18650 and other cells in the vaping industry, the law surrounding the supply of them in the UK and EU and what is and isn’t being done in the industry to ensure total compliance and most importantly, customer safety. If you are selling these batteries to your customers, it is your responsibility to ensure you are doing so legally. Of course, at 18650UK we do this for you at no cost further than the cell itself.

Why has it taken this long? Simply, because writers of the EU Battery Directive and Trading Standards weren’t fully aware of the use of these cells in vaping. And since they’re designed for power packs, electric vehicles etc, they are NOT compliant with the regulations “out of the box”. Having spent months in communication, they’re now aware of exactly how they’re being used in the vaping industry and are ready to support people on the route to full compliance with plans to update the directives to cover them more specifically.

 

Do your batteries arrive like this? – This is not compliant. Not only are the stickers removable (regulations state the markings must be totally indelible), they dont have the necessary information on them. The polarity and WEEE bin symbol are missing, as is the chemistry marker. Want to know more? To start, the only reason they come in these boxes is to satisfy Chinese air export law; they have to be individually boxed. Tens of thousands are poured into huge bins, then pulled out and individually boxed. Prime opportunity to lob a few boxes of counterfeits in the mix and boost already very slim margins too…

Importing from China? – Almost all of the cells/batteries we wholesale/distribute are manufactured in the Far East. Did you know that if you import direct from China, you are classed as a “Producer” and have much bigger legal responsibilities than just selling them? If you are the first business to place the cells on the market in the EU, you are responsible for having the batteries batch tested. You will also need to be able supply proof. With thousands of batch codes mixed together because of the above process, you can imagine the cost… This is why our batteries come by sea. Batch testing is much quicker, easier and cheaper when you have 20,000 of the same batch in their original factory boxes! You also need to register with the relevant government body. (Picture is of a recycling plant. The 3rd party re-boxing plants look similar. The batteries just have wraps on…)

The law was already broken before we got here – It was the same for us too. When we started out, we were unaware of just how in depth the regulations were. But the old saying “ignorance isn’t a valid defence” is very true here. Being unaware of your responsibilities wont stop Trading Standards removing your batteries from premises and its already happening. We’ve seen rumblings on socials and have even had a few companies come to us having suffered the same fate. Buying from 18650.UK saves you the worry. Every cell is fully compliant.

What can you do about it? Challenge your suppliers. If they’re selling you non-compliant batteries, you could agree they dont have your best interests at heart. It would take a very serious customer service commitment to offer you a total order replacement if Trading Standards remove our cells from your store. Would they do it? We do. Having had our cell markings approved, Trading Standards are a help, not a hinderance. We’re that confident, if there’s ever an issue, we’ll just replace them, hassle free. We’ve never had to do it, and we dont expect to…

Picture of Battery Directive Sony VTC5A 18650

 

What do i look for? The minimum standards for cell compliance are the following; The RoHS bin symbol, Capacity, Chemistry and Polarity. As you can see, these are all present in our markings which are done in house on our soft conveyor fed TIJ system. This is from the same manufacturer  of equipment used by LG for the marking of their cells. This machinery uses a thermal ink, making it almost impossible to remove without harsh chemicals. It satisfies what the normal stickers do not; the markings must be indelible. On the box doesn’t count either. It also safely processes several thousand cells per hour, meaning no delay in getting them to you.

What are the other numbers? – We’re building an internal database of cells sold by us and have done since 4th January 2018. Every cell that leaves us (with the exception of those going to the accumulator/EV market) is given a unique serial number, making up most of the second line. This VTC6 pictured displays YD1 09 00001. Y is 2018, D is April, 1 denotes the first batch of cells run that day, 09 is the date, 00001 is the unique cell number from this batch; in this instance, the first. This format allows us to accurately trace any cell sold by us internally and externally. We hope that this will prevent counterfeiting of our markings, since we hold a record of exactly who we sold each wholesale cell to. (Cells sold on our retail website also have SOLD BY 18650.UK on them. We can place your company name here on wholesale orders and at no cost!

Need more information? –  This isn’t an exhaustive “how to” guide. There are many more things to consider, which we cover for all of our customers. Full details of the requirements and responsibilities for selling batteries in the UK including all of the above can be found on the gov.uk website by clicking here

As always, if you need anything further, dont hesitate to get in touch.

Ben – Sales Director – 18650UK

hello@18650.uk

The Vapcell 18650 25A 3000mAh results are in….

Not bad. Not bad at all…

So. Graph…

Picture of Vapcell 18650 25A (VCT6A)

Vapcell 18650 25A (VTC6A) Discharge

What are you looking at? 

Im sure if you’ve been vaping long enough or have an active interest in battery performance you’ve likely seen these graphs before. The Vapcell (Sony VTC6A re-wrap) claims to be a 25A, 3000mAh cell. As we are the only people we know of in the UK with these (confirmed by Vapcell as the only buyer right now) we wanted to carry out a little more than the usual due diligence before placing them on the market. The initial blog post is here.

How did it do? 

Very well.

The initial 10A discharge maintained a strong 2500mAh. Not quite enough for me to call it a true 3000mAh cell, but Sony rate their cells on discharges at half of this, and its still 200mAh above what is widely recognised for the VTC5A at this load.

At 15A we start to see cell temperature rise to 37’c. This is still unbelievably low. So low that i started questioning the ordinarily well respected test equipment we have (more on that later).

At 20A temperature rose to 48.8’C and the cell maintained 2400mAh. This is still a very low temperature for a 20A continuous discharge.

At 25A temperature rose to 61.8’C, and managed 2200mAh. This is still strong going given we’re now at the rating given by Vapcell.

At 30A, temperature seconds before the end of test was 74.5’C. This is pretty hot, but still under the 80’C maximum working temperature limit Sony set for all of their cells. It also still managed to provide 2000mAh. Vapcell may have been a little conservative with their rating, which is always far better than being wildly (and dangerously) optimistic.

A further run at 35A (not shown) just for the sake of science gave a reading of 86.8’C. This is over Sony’s recommendations, and over that which would be safe in individual cell use outside of a battery pack that doesn’t have an integrated cooling system.

The thing that sticks out for me against the VTC5A and the VTC6 which people are hoping this will be a hybrid of, is the sag. Its considerably more than both of them. I’m investigating if some of this is in our equipment although previous tests against others peoples results have been near identical.  I hope to do a shootout between all 3 soon.

Test equipment

We use a West Mountain Radio Computer Battery Analyser IV Pro. Its a small but very capable unit, and until recently was being used by a very well known cell tester and still in use with other cell vendors. Cost vs performance is fantastic and not out of the scope of companies selling a reasonably large number of cells to help with cell testing/verification. We dont normally release this stuff but as this is a brand new cell with barely any available information, it felt like the right thing to do.

In the interest of transparency, i got a reading of just 15’C @ 10A and 24’C @ 15A on the initial tests. This was obviously far too low to be correct, it was traced to a faulty temperature sensor on the unit. Its a little magnetic sensor that sends a temperature signature to the software. Speaking to another cell vendor and user of this system this appears to be a common thing, so to rule out the errors and get even more accurate figures i’ve switched to a standalone laser/infra red temperature sensor. All readings above were taken with this new, fully calibrated equipment.

That’s all. If you have any questions or need any further information, drop us a message or send us an email

Ben

Please be good. Please be really good….

Another new Vapcell 18650…

They’re getting pretty good at this. Here is the new Vapcell 18650 25A 3000mAh cell…

If only i had beaten them…

As normal, this is a re-wrap. This time, we know exactly what it is (more on this below). Its a re-wrapped Sony VTC6A. Its one of Sonys new generation cells primarily aimed at the EV market, much like some of the new Samsung cells (which i wont reveal just yet). I was aware of these batteries in around August last year. The first of them started popping up around November, and ive been on the hunt for a large number of them ever since. I even practically begged my contact at Vapcell to ship me a couple of thousand without re-wrapping, but obviously with supplies being short, they wanted to capitalise. I dont even think they had that many to begin with.

Whats so special?

25A and 3000mAh are two figures you dont normally find together, but technology is moving quickly. Some of the cells i source for electric vehicle clients are pushing over 100A (not 18650, but not much bigger either). Granted, the lifespan is too poor to be considered for vaping but it goes to show that lithium cell technology is advancing quicker than ever. Manufacturers are fighting one-another for contracts with major vehicle manufacturers. With competition comes diversity, and development. Im hoping for the same with the VTC6A

When can you get them?

Soon. We have 400 of these but as with any brand new to market cell, i need to do some testing first. Initial inspection shows that they 99% likely are the Sony VTC6A re-wrap i was promised. Having pulled the wraps off of a few, there are clear signs that Vapcell have tried to remove the original Sony markings from the can, mostly likely with an acetone wipe or similar. It’ll cause no harm to the cell, it just removes ink. That said, under the right light, you can still just about see the “DO NOT USE OUTSIDE OF BATTERY PACK” on one side which Sony prints on almost all cells now, along with the normal Sony markings on the otherside, complete with the VTC6A model code. The positive cap looks good, as does the can insulator, positive crimp tooling marks and it looks like the original non-adhesive insulator has been reused. With the physical aspects covered, i hope to begin load testing on these against the manufacturer specs in the next few days.

Ill keep customers updated via mailshot and Facebook as soon as I’m happy for them to be released!

Ben