Exactly why 18650 battery names like VTC4, VTC5, Samsung 25R, are confusing everybody April 03 2015, 5 Comments

Naming conventions used in tech are usually pretty easy to follow. But it's all too often consumers expect a naming convention to hold true, and when it does not, expectations are broken and people are left confused and upset. Technology in general is rooted, and its progress inferred, from something called Moore's Law. If you don't know what it is, here is a refresher:

The observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future.
That is, we have come to expect version 2 to be better than version 1, and so on. Version 3 will be even faster. Consumers expect the number at the end of the product, to be a version - and a reflection of progress made. If it's a game, version 2 should have more content and better graphics. If it's a mobile phone, sequential versions should have clearer screens, and faster processors.

It was just yesterday that Apple released a new MacBook which competes to be the thinnest in the world. However, a quick look at the comments, and hundreds if not thousands of people are complaining that their current laptop is faster. Or their current laptop is better in another way.

This predisposition to apply a naming convention too broadly does not only apply to laptops or mobile phones. It applies to all technology and electronic products. There are certainly cases of confusion in 18650 batteries as well. You might ask yourself the following question:

What is better, the Sony VTC4 or the Sony VTC5?

Answer: Well it all depends...

The first idea, is that 18650 batteries are difficult to create. So difficult, only a handful of manufacturers like Panasonic, LG, Sony, and Samsung (and some others which take up a very small minority) have the ability to create them. It was said that South Korea and Japan are at least five years ahead of any western country in their ability to produce lithium-ion batteries. Elon Musk's Gigafactory is only possible because of their closely aligned partner, Panasonic.

Wholesale battery suppliers do not choose sides. Factories which produce batteries let the market decide what to do with them - they don't have preference except to stay within safe limits set by organizations like the United Nations. The factory sits, waiting to fill demand where the market creates it. Currently, the largest market sector for li-ion 18650 batteries is in electric vehicles. In the world of electric vehicles, capacity reigns supreme. The maximum travel distance of a vehicle is perhaps the largest barrier of entry for mass market penetration, and the capacity of a cell provides that needed run-time.

Sony VTC for Mods and Vapes

Let's get straight to the battery specifications of the VTC4 and compare it to the specs of the VTC5.

The Sony VTC4

The Sony VTC5

Ask most vapers and modders what is better, and they will usually say the VTC5 is. Having told dozens of people by now, I have come to see reactions ranging from confusion to rage. The simple fact is, the VTC4 has a 30 amp maximum continuous discharge rating, and the VTC5 has a 20 amp max. cont. discharge rating. On the other hand, the VTC5 can run for 500 more milliamp hours than the VTC4. At this point, electric car enthusiasts are raising their arms and proclaiming the VTC5 to indeed be better than its predecessor.

The naming conventions of 18650 batteries are not created for marketing to end-consumers. They are model numbers based on a system of organization within and between factories. Therein lies the difference and the reason so many modders have been so confused for so long.

The same pattern follows in Samsung SDI batteries. The Samsung 25R is rated at 20 amps, while the Samsung 30Q is only rated at 6 amps. The difference is, the 25R is 2500mAh while the 30Q is 3000mAh. In LG 18650 batteries, there is no relative information in the model number, one has to look them up or memorize them to know their specs.

Li-ion battery naming conventions are not crafted to fit a wide audience

Instead their main purpose is in organization for factories. When consumers expect a higher number to be better, that is definitely not always the case for lithium ion batteries and causes confusion. Even more so, many suppliers play off this misconception and do little to try and educate consumers. While 18650 batteries might be improving exponentially, their model names are no mirror image of this. It's always better to ask a battery expert or look up their specifications in a spec or data sheet yourself.

Edit: Thank you kindly to Ron for pointing out that I had written 30A instead of 30Q.