Fake 18650 Battery Scam

Laptop Power pack

The 18650 battery has seen the most fakes in the battery industry, and there is a good reason for that. This battery is one of the most widely used to make up power packs for laptops. It has been used for over a decade and currently, there are mountains of these old laptop power packs waiting to be recycled.

Inside the Power Pack

When I was young, I saw a bunch of youths take a garbage bag and empty its contents into the neighbouring garden belonging to an immigrant family. Some of these youths were very familiar to me as they were from my school. There was a David, John, Tony, and William. They were excited and elated at what they had done, and ran into their homes laughing... It is amazing how some things never change, because I see these children all the time, except today they are grown men in responsible positions of power.

As the saying goes, what goes around comes around... The battery recycling scam has been operating for many years, and almost every country has been involved in this either knowingly or otherwise.

As a consumer, you diligently take your depleted batteries and power packs to the recycling centre for proper disposal. You hope that your country has the necessary tools, and equipment, to recycle the toxic chemicals in the battery. The government, in its mighty wisdom, will generally outsource this work to a recycling firm paying them millions from tax-payers money to deal with the waste. In an attempt to increase profits, the recycling firm will get rid of this toxic waste by off-loading it to developing countries. This is the out-of-sight-out-of-mind policy. It saves them millions of pounds, and the chairman, and directors -- all middle-class Europeans -- get millions in bonuses to live a life of excess... Holidays, and yachts...

The toxic waste ends up in places such as India, China, and Africa. In the log books, all of this is written off as charity, and they get even more money for that as well! In India, these batteries are often dumped into the nearby water drinking wells. If not, then it ends up in the local rivers. There have been many cases of wells and rivers being poisoned, and many poor innocent children have died as a result.

The Chinese are a lot cleverer. They open up the laptop power pack and re-wrap the individual batteries with a new branded logo and sell it back to us Brits at a bargain price! Our prejudice directs our focus and anger on the Chinese / Asian. The way I see it, there are many criminals involved in this. Those that offload their toxic waste to developing nations are just as guilty. Unfortunately, those guys normally get Knighthoods for their ingenuity... We do not allow the proliferation of nuclear waste, so why are toxic chemicals, plastics, and battery waste, acceptable? For real improvement, changes have to occur at the top level.

Inside the Power Pack

Control and Protection PCB

Battery Control PCB

These lithium batteries are incredibly dangerous to use alone, and require a control circuit to manage them. As you can see, this power pack has a circuit board that manages the charge in the individual batteries.

Control and Monitor PCB

Lithium batteries typically require a control and monitor circuit which will safeguard the battery from being overcharged. This is because lithium is a dangerous material which can explode if it is overcharged. The circuitry also ensures that a minimum charge is retained in the battery. If the charge level falls below a certain critical amount, then there are more dangers involved!

The circuit also provides short-circuit protection because if the battery is accidentally shorted, then it can explode, therefore this PCB provides a safeguard against that as well.

M37515 Microcomputer

As you can see, there is this powerful microcontroller that is required to monitor all the batteries at all times, so should I cut the red wire, or the yellow wire?

The M37515 is an 8-bit microcomputer made by Mitsubishi. This computer is used to manage the charge level in the batteries, and to ensure their safe and proper operation. It draws power directly from the batteries that it is monitoring.

Without any kind of management circuitry, these batteries are dangerous and should not be used on their own.

This site does NOT advocate the use of ANY kind of lithium based battery for hobby use. DO NOT use any such battery. They are highly dangerous!

Signs of a Fake - Spot Weld Marks

Terminal Clip Spot Weld

One quick way to tell if a battery is a fake is to look at its positive and negative terminals. If you see spot weld marks, or you see marks which indicate grinding to remove the spot welds, then it is very likely a fake.

Spot Weld Mark

The terminal connections are welded using a form of cold spot welding. I managed to remove the metal terminal plates; however, it leaves behind ugly spot-weld marks. The fakers normally grind these off with a file. Therefore, if your battery has scratch marks indicating filing then your battery is likely a fake.

Fake Battery Spot Weld Marks

I removed the metal clip with a pair of pliers, however, it still leaves behind sharp metal shards stuck to the terminal plate.

Negative Terminal

As you can see, the negative terminal also has a metal clip spot-welded, and therefore a fake battery will have marks there as well.

Fake Wrappers

Sony Energytec US18650S

The battery industry has seen more fakes than any other industry. The problem is that anyone with minimal intelligence could take any battery and place a new wrapper of another battery on it.

This genuine Sony Energytec cell is very well manufactured. Even if it does not work as part of a laptop power pack, it can still store some charge if used on its own. Since many customers do not have the professional equipment required to measure the charge capacity, they do not complain, because the fake battery appears to hold some charge...

Battery Wrapper Off

In fact, there are many Chinese websites openly selling professionally printed wrappers. This indicates that there is a huge industry involved in the fake batteries scam.

Fake Battery Scam

These people will often take a cheap unbranded battery, and fit a new wrapper on it of a branded one such as Sony or Panasonic. Then, they can sell it at a higher price and make money, whilst the consumer makes a loss with a poor quality dangerous battery. If you suspect a battery to be a fake, then the correct thing to do is to contact the seller that you bought it from and get a refund. If the seller tells you to keep the battery, then you should take it to your nearest government recycling centre...

I hope you enjoyed this article on how fake batteries are made and how to spot them. There are many related articles, so please continue surfing my site, and please donate through the link below.