Goal Zero Bolt flashlight modified to charge standard 18650s

Picture of Goal Zero Bolt flashlight modified to charge standard 18650s
Picked up a Goal Zero flashlight from Woot last week, and was upset to find that (contrary to the advertisement) it won't charge normal 18650 cells. 
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Step 1:

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Original Pill and Battery.jpg
Original Pill.jpg
The battery it came with was unusual, in that it had two contacts on the top of the cell which corresponded with two contacts inside the flashlight:

Step 2:

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Inner Pin.jpg
Outer Pin.jpg
These charging pins, when powered using the USB port, put out a positive and a negative value which combined make ~4.2v.

(Note:  I switched the alligator clips accidentally - when keeping the same reference one of the readings should be negative)

Step 3:

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Seems like that secondary contact ring on the battery is just routed to the negative contact of the battery, which prevents the flashlight from charging any battery other than the Goal Zero branded ones. I called the company, and they confirmed my supposition (Yay American companies with good customer service and accessible engineers!).

Since I have a bunch of old laptop batteries from work (which, incidentally, is why I care about being able to charge standard 18650s), I decided to use some more bits of it for this project - I remembered that these batteries very seldom use actual wires, and more often use flat metal strips coated in Kapton for connections, which is great since I don't have a lot of room to play with inside the flashlight body.  Grabbing a knock-off exacto knife, I managed to grab this without bleeding out on the workshop floor (this time).

Step 4:

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I removed the covering from the outer charging pin and attached the connector to the spring inside using the poor man's solder.  (I wanted to stick with non-permanent modifications until I was sure I wouldn't set my house on fire)

Step 5:

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I reassembled the charging pill

Step 6:

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And put it back in its housing
zapro2 years ago
Don't you mean 500 mA? mAh is a measure of energy, not current.
If the flashlight charges from USB, which have a maximum current of 500 mA, the limitation seems quite sensible.
Harrson (author)  zapro2 years ago
Good catch - I'll have to update the instructable.

I agree that the charging current is in line with the usb specs, but there do exist higher current usb ports. That said, it's probably much cheaper to make something that only draws that much, rather than something that tries to negotiate with the power source to get more juice.