How to Prolong the Life of an 18650 Battery

Battery Bro supplies lithium-ion 18650 batteries and packs to emerging technologies like drones, ...

There are many important specifications for an 18650 battery, including:

  • Capacity (mAh)
  • Discharge Current (A)
  • Charge Current (A)
  • Maximum Cycle Life

In this Instructable, I want to talk about maximum cycle life, and how you can use this measure to prolong the life of your batteries.

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Step 1: Step 1: Learn About Cycle Life

What is a cycle?

When an 18650 battery is charged and discharged, this is counted as one cycle.

  • 18650 lithium-ion batteries are charged up to 4.2V and down to between 2V and 3V depending on the cell's specification for cut-off voltage.
  • To be safe, never discharge lower than 3.0V unless you know your cell's specification.

Discharging occurs anytime you use the battery for power. The electricity is drawn from your device, and the battery discharges current. You can also use battery testing equipment to discharge a battery.

  • To charge an 18650, you should use a special charger for lithium-ion cells.

How is cycle life calculated?

Cycle life is determined by the difference in capacity of your cell taken from its first-use rating to its present rating. For example, if your cell started at 3000mAh, but now only has 2900mAh. 2900 mAh is 96% of the original capacity.

When this percentage reaches 80%, we say the cycle life has ended (even though you may get a few thousand more cycles out of your battery).

So if we take a 3000mAh cell, when do we say its life has ended?

(80% of 3000 is 2400) so when the cell reaches a capacity of 2400 mAh we say its cycle life is over.

How many cycles does a typical 18650 battery have?

Most modern 18650 batteries have a typical cycle life of 300 - 500 (charge, discharge cycles). When in high-amp or high-drain situations, this can decrease substantially to 200 cycles. If you go over the maximum discharge current limit (A) you can decrease the cycle life all the way down to 50 cycles.

In optimal conditions, your cells may achieve more than 500 cycles.

Some chemistries are able to cycle thousands of times before reaching 80% of their capacity.

Step 2: Optimize Temperature

18650 cells are rated normally at between 20 and 25 degrees Celcius.

Any deviation from this will create a slight loss in efficiency. A 10-degree deviation might account for a loss of 20, or 30mAh.

While the extremes, below zero, or above 70 degrees, will see much faster cell degradation.

Using a cell at suboptimal temperatures will decrease its cycle life.

  • Tip: Never charge your 18650 cell below freezing! Eg. in a garage in Winter as it will degrade particularly quick this way

While you are using your cell, if you notice it gets hot, let it rest. Under normaly use your cell should not get hot-to-touch, and should never exceed 60 degrees. If it is getting hot fast, you are over-stressing it.

Step 3: Don't Overcharge (above 4.2V), Consider Undercharging (under 4.0V)

If you are totally concerned about cycle life and not capacity, then you might not even do a full charge.

Instead, you might do a partial charge. This is when you charge your battery only up to say, 3.8V instead of 4.2V.

You will see decreased capacity, but less stress on your cell and an increased cycle life.

Overcharging will see increased capacity but it's dangerous and will reduce your cell's life.

Step 4: Lower Your Charge Current (amps)

Many chargers have the ability to lower charge current. A "fast charge" may be 1 amp or higher. While this charges your cells faster, it will reduce their cycle life.

Notice this graph, the big difference in cycle life that charging affects.

Step 5: Lower Your Discharge Current (amps)

Remember what a discharge is? If not, I recommend going back to Step 1.

When you discharge a cell you can choose its cut-off voltage like we already discussed. But we can also choose the amperage with which we are drawing current. The higher the amperage, the less capacity we will ultimately see.

Higher amperage discharges (called high-drain) will also reduce the cycle life of your cells.

When possible, use less amperage. Official tests by LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and so forth usually do their discharge tests at just 0.5 or 0.8 amps.

Step 6: Increase Your Cut-off Voltage

On the flip side of a partial charge is a partial discharge.

Rather than a full cycle, this is known as a partial cycle. It has the benefit of reducing stress on your battery and increasing cycle life.

So instead of discharging all the way down to 2.8V or however your battery is rated, you might only discharge to 3.2V.

Step 7: Know Thy Cell Chemistry

Different cell chemistries perform differently.

Many 18650 batteries can reach 1000+ cycles comfortable in the right conditions.

The lithium-ion 18650 cell chemistry with one of the highest cycle lives is the lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery.

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    17 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Thanks for those information. i agree, 18650 is the modern gasoline of the modern world, we find them everywhere but we don't even know.

    I didn't get the part "step 5: lower your discharge". Could you explain me the two curves?

    Also, How can you in reality use less amperage? Except choosing better devices which doesn't drain a lot?

    2 replies

    Reply 7 weeks ago

    You might, in some cases, not actually reduce the overall amperage. What you would do is add 1 or more batteries in parallel. Thus reducing the load on the batteries and not increasing the voltage. Hope that helped


    Reply 1 year ago

    tedlabete, You want to reduce the amperage drawn from each individual cell, not the total needed for any given device. If your device draws 2 amps, for instance, instead of using two cells which would both need to provide 1 amp, you might use three or four cells, instead. That way each only has to provide 0.60 or 0.5 amps.

    Syed Hasnain

    7 weeks ago

    Sir if i use 18650 with tp4056 charger to make a project that can forever charge the battery is it safe to work with?


    Question 4 months ago on Step 7

    What is the specification for a charger for 4 Li ion batteries(18650 3.7V 3000mAh) in series?.We need it to keep it in series for our project.Our aim is to get 12v supply.



    1 year ago

    Just sign up and mine is actually a question rather than a comment on the above. Recently I converted my cordless drills power pack from ni-cadium batteries to li-lion 18650. I used 3 x 18650 of the same brand and another of a different brand and different mah from the 3. After charging up, the drill was working perfectly and when it stopped, I removed it for charging again but found the odd 1 battery was totally ) 0 volt and could not be charged. The other 3 of the same type were ok. Bought another battery to replaced this dead one and it happened again after the first use. The question is, Is it not suitable to mix batteries of different mah in a same battery pack. My drill is a 14.4V type. Any advice. Thanks.

    1 reply

    Reply 7 months ago

    Probably got fake cells in there .


    7 months ago

    First thing you want to do is weigh each cell .,Discard all those that weigh less than 40 grams. There are a lot of fake cells on the market . if they claim over 4000mah and weigh less than 40 grams they are fake cells . They will work for a short time then fail . The jelly roll inside the can is able to expand out and destroy the cell because it is not restricted by the can sides as a good cell is.


    Question 1 year ago

    may I ask what equipment & software did you use to analize the cells?


    where can we get this SOC gauge?


    1 year ago

    Nice writeup, Battery Bro. Great to see so much useful info collected in one place.


    2 years ago

    Please, Is there any chance you could give me some advice choosing a good high capacity (at least 100AH) Power Bank battery as they usually use those kind of 18650 batteries.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Considering most of decent 18650 batteries have close to 3 Ah, you would need about 34 of them in parallel (if you think about portable usb power banks) to add up to 100AH, also when choosing 18650 batteries stay away from those chinese counterfeit batteries, they dont have true capacity (everything over 4Ah per cell is fake)


    3 years ago

    Good information. Thanks.

    18650 battery

    3 years ago

    Thanks for reading, feel free to ask any questions here.