Hobby Charger VS Cheap Chinese Charger [ charger behavior ] some thoughts

From time to time I see folks complaining/questioning there battery resting voltage after charging there 18650 with a hobby charger .

A lot of people simply cant understand why there battery wont hold 4.2v after charging .

So I will attempt to enlighten :

Have you noticed voltage sag when turning on a device and monitoring voltage ? Lets talk AA for a moment , and say you have a 1.75v Lithium cell , in your flashlight @ 2A current draw that battery can sag , bellow 1.4v under enough load ..

Now the same goes for Li-ion under load , a good quality cell , @ lets call it 1A discharge , may sag to 4v or even lower , cheap nasty cells I have seen sag all the way down to 3.5v under 1A load .

The same thing happens when charging , but in reverse , rather than dropping voltage , it is increased under the load of having current pushed into it .

Remember , batteries are designed so that energy flows out , not in , so energy needs to be forced in , this creates a resistance load from the battery that needs to be overcome by the charger , usually in the form of increased voltage [ with me so far ? ]

Now a lot of folks using hobby chargers run higher charge currents than say the usual Chinese charger [ lets call it the much loved WF-139 ] .

So what folks need to understand is that it takes time for a battery to normalize after and during charging , and that Hobby chargers @ higher current dont give the battery the time or opportunity to normalize during the charge cycle .[ So many charge 0.8A to 1A , so lets call this the Charge rate for the Hobby Charger ]

So once completed , it may take an hour for the battery to normalize its resting voltage , which due to the Hobby charger behavior , may be quite a bit less than many expect .

What is the issue ? The hobby charger maintains its charge rate longer , there by charging faster , and also not allowing the battery to normalize during charging .

This is where the Cheap Chinese chargers excel :

All the chargers I have , tapper the charge current , so even if the charger were to start @ 1A charge rate , it begins to tapper the charge rate giving the battery time to normalize under charge , and its charging at a higher rate at a time when the battery is more accepting [ empty ] of higher charge rates ..

The Cheap charger may have tapered down to 300mA by the time you get to 4v on the battery voltage , 200ma by 4.1v and by the time you approach 4.2v it may be doing 60mA and have a terminating charge rate of 40mA [ most chargers are less than this - but Im going with highest one I have as an example = charge cycle current ]

Anyhow , what this means is , the Cheap charger [ Compared to hobby chargers ] does a really good job of charging the battery , and in the real world [ rather than some ones imagination ] , may actually stress the battery less , than the hobby charger .

And lets not forget , if you have good quality batteries , they wont mind being charged to 4.2v . Whether you charge to 4.15v or 4.2v , the better the battery , the less it will matter , as the batteries are under the greatest load / stress near completion .. And if you complete the charge gently [ Cheap Charger ] , then how much difference will 0.05v make ?

But with the Hobby charger , it will stress the battery more , how do we know , because it sags !

If you charged your 18650 to 4.2v with the hobby charger and it sags to 4.15v , then it had to be under enough load/stress to sag back to a unstressed state , and the Cheap charger terminates at 4.2v and the battery holds 4.2v , does that tell you that the battery was under far less stress ?

You dont need to be a rocket scientist , to understand that , these cheap chargers are maybe not so bad as some would have you believe ...

Now if you have a $200 Hobby charger that can be fully programmed for the charge rate , that's fine , in fact its fantastic , but when a $8 Chinese Charger from HK can do the same thing , and save you $192 , then I cant knock or put down the cheaper product that does the job .

Life is , to each there own , but the king is , knowledge ! [ I dont know everything , but hopefully I have shared some of the little I know ]

This is a very light weight explanation ..

And hopefully , explains that , Hobby Chargers are maybe not the best option for the 18650 , possibly if you insist on using one , you may reconsider the reasons for such , and maybe its time to lower the charge rate if you suffer from a lot of voltage sag on completion , and maybe you stressing the battery more than you thought [ lots of sag ]

The battery is under the greatest stress near or at completion , and this is where you need to be gentle

And empty battery is more accepting of higher charge rates , than one that is not empty

Hobby chargers are wonderful things , but like any tool , when misused or misunderstood

Are cheap chargers so bad [ if you have a good one ] as some would have you believe , or is it simply a - Mine cost more than yours thing ? [ so it must be better ]

Price makes right !

Interesting! TY very much!

Thanks for the explanation. All I have is a cheap charger and Trustfire batteries for that matter (and Eneloops of course). They all work fine.

I think much of the appeal of the hobby charger is that it's expensive and must be better and it has read outs and more controls. I don't want playing with batteries to be a full time endeavor so unless the cheaper versions (charger and battery) start to not work out for me I see no need to get anything else.

very good post old.

i think some people think the higher the charge rate the better, yes it will be faster but all in all the battery will sag and it will hold less mAh in the end, not to mention it will raise the internal resistance of the battery and shorten its life.

the issue i think is not the hobby charger holding the charge rate longer or stressing out the battery, its people over charging the batteries take an 18650 since the charger will cut out at 4.2v or what you have set it to if you push to much current into the batteries they will rise in voltage hit the 4.2v cut off early and cut off they will not have time to absorb all the mAh and then once the cell is rested and the voltage is check it will be lower then 4.2volt and the battery will not give its full run time once used cause it didn't get to take its full mAh and its full voltage and I'm hopping we all understand the more mAh the longer the torch will run before needing a recharge, this also works for all rechargeable batteries.

there is other factors in this the charge mode used on the charger for example a fast charge will only charge to 80 to 90% the batteries will also make a difference the cheaper the battery will impact discharge and charge rates, a cheap hobby charger will also make a difference and because hobby charger,s let us humans do the thinking and we are an impatient breed we tent to over charge then ask why the rested voltage is different

I'm into remote control (RC) as a hobby have been for 20 years or so i have always had hobby chargers over the years and i run a middle of the road hobby chargers for my RC and my 18650,s i find it is more precise then the cheaper stuff but there need,s to be some understanding and knowledge, i could not go back to plug and play chargers as i would need so many.

while I'm new to 18650 batteries I'm not new to li-xx batteries i use slow charge,s and i always balance charge my 18650,s its slower, the charge rate ramps down giving the batteries time to normalize and this is where they will take a bulk of the mAh back.

i charge my 18650,s at a max charge rate of 0.5 amps (500 mAh) and i only use cheap batteries the trustfire flames, this is about the Maxim i believe these batteries can be pushed over a slow balance charge to take the Maxim mAH , this works out at around 0.4C for the charge rate, i believe 0.2C is better but then i pick the higher charge rate (C) to save time.

with my hobby li-po batteries there normally is a 1C charge rate so 1 x capacity of the battery divided by 1000, so if you have a 2200 mAh battery its 2.2 amps most li-po,s can be charged at 2C + so 2 x capacity, i mention this so people might understand the above when i say 0.4 and 0.2C.

over the years Ive found most cheaper chargers will do the job and some do it well, i would not recommend people who are not into RC to spend big $$$ on chargers and power supply,s as there is no need a couple of cheaper chargers like the WF-139 or the WF-188 would be fine if they don't over charge if they under charge no problem but most batteries are protected.

but also over the years i have noticed a lot of the cheaper chargers not to be 100% accurate or calibrated to there full potential and have noticed differences of .01 to 0.4 volt + some under charge some over charge and there is a difference between each charger i guess this comes down to quality control and some times you get what you pay for but we all want to save money.

i cant say a WF-139 is better then a $200 hobby charger that's full programmable, with calibration features that's accurate with in 10 mv (0.01v) or as accurate as your fluke DMM,s as i personally don't think it is, but like i said i cant recommend torch addicts to spend that money on what i call a half decent charger and power supply set up just for torch batteries, i also cant recommend the cheap imax b6 balance chargers due to there inaccuracy and there poor performance with accuracy and nimh charging.

like you say knowledge is the king, there needs to be some understanding and often to save time charging will shorten the life of your batteries and they will have slower resting voltage, its a give and take to me, the user needs to find the middle ground between Maxim mAh good rested voltage and charge time, one thing i will say that's good about the hobby chargers is understanding as you see whats going on and after a while to will make sense to most people.

with hobby chargers on the display screen you can actually see what your charging and discharging habits are doing to your batteries, you will see voltage sag with high discharge rates and you will see the voltage rise with high charge rates but once the battery has normalized or rested it will show other wise so then you know your over charging.

E.g when charging a 18650 at 1 amp say is you start the charge at 3.2 volt you will see the battery voltage climb up as soon and the charger kicks in but if you stop the charger you will see the battery voltage fall back to where you started, the same goes for discharging your 18650,s (but back to front) if you discharge a 18650 at 2 amps with the batteries resting voltage of 4.18v and you set the charger to shut down when the discharge hits 3v you will notice the charger will shut off when the battery hits 3v under load but once the load is taken off the battery will climb back up the battery has not had the time to take in or out its mAh.

this is why slower charge and discharge rates are better as the batteries will be closer to true rested voltage and mAh or normalized like you say, now like we said knowledge is power, but with the WF-139 you can not see this happening in front of your eye,s on the screen and a lot of people most likely will not research this and if they don't have a back ground in electric,s or RC so they might be surprised if they get one it will genrate questions.

also some hobby chargers are good for knowing how much mAh is going into the battery so you know truly how the battery performs plus features like data logging internal resistance testing comes in handy and can help you pick and chose what batteries to use say for direct drive torch,s and watching a good hobby charger in action will help people understand voltage drop and sag and voltage rise when charging over time.

Ive read on here in the past and even today plus of other forums in the past of these cheap chargers not shutting off and over charging and so on, but in other peoples eye,s they are the bee,s knee,s, i believe my $200 hobby charger and power supply is better then a WF-139 or an imax b6 not because it cost more and makes me better then every one else, its better cause its programmable it has more features i can charge multiple li-po,s at 10 amps for my remote control cars i can charge my xbox 360 controller batteries my camera batteries my torch batteries my radio batteries my 9v nimh,s its more accurate and it will work in the car on 12volt and it works at home i even take it on holidays to charge camera batteries it is used attest every couple of days and has payed for its self already.

i can easily see people with out a RC or electrical knowledge not understanding loaded and unloaded voltage and not understanding rested cell voltage and they would be seeing data they are not used to yet, if any one with a hobby charger is questioning the rested voltage of there batteries then they are over charging the batteries most likely.

instead of charging one battery at 1 amp with a hobby charger your much better off charging 2 to 6 or more at 0.5 amp the batteries will charge better hold more mAh giving them more run time and longer shelf life and because you are charging multiple batteries it works out much quicker then trying to force feed one and there will be less or no rested voltage difference because its being charged at a lower charge rate but your still saving time as your charging mutable batteries.

i like you believe knowledge is power but i don't believe its the hobby chargers fault i believe its user error mostly wrong charging modes cheap batteries and over charging a good hobby charger used correctly with a half decent battery will not stress out a battery or let the battery sag to 4.15v after its rested

My hobbychargers (Graupner, Robbe) decrease the current when hitting the 4,2V mark and push the last 5% of energy very slow with still decreasing current into the battery. I get them with perfekt 4,20V from the charger and they hold this voltage. Checking about a week later it is of course a bit lower at about 4,17V or so, nothing to worry about.

The charging method is called CC-CV, constant current-constant voltage.

I agree , chargers are tools and as such need to be used correctly ..

Unfortunately - while many express the virtue of hobby chargers , they seem to ignore the pitfalls , and give bad advise on there use .

I honestly dont understand how people can knock the 18650 chargers [ Trustfire TR-001 etc ] since the majority do a great job .

But then there are some seriously good hobby chargers out there if you want to pay the price ...

That is the methode the LiIon cell manufacturers recommend.

A typical charge specification has a maximum voltage (4.2 volt) and maximum charge current (Like 0.5C) and a minimum charge / cutoff current (like 80 mA). The hobby charger follows this, except the cutoff current is usual defined as charge current/10. I.e. when charging with 1 A, the cutoff current will be 0.1 A.

This charge methode will not force a high voltage on an old cell (This is damaging to the cell), but will stop charging when the cell cannot accept more current (Defined with the cutoff current).

And many dedicated 18650 chargers do exactly the same thing ... [ Sensitive to the internal resistance of batteries - therefore terminating early ]

And yes there are some chargers that force batteries to a higher voltage state , but depending on the school of thought ?

There are those who believe in conditioning batteries , even Li-ion ..

And some Li-ion get better after some use ? If you cant condition Li-ion, this should not happen .

Can you bring back degraded cells ?

One of these days , Im going to look into it , probably when school finishes , I will run some experiments , to see , condition new cells , or recondition old cells in any shape or form

Imho chinese cheap chargers are great if you use protected litio battery, because the only cons is that them usually over-volt or can broke keep charging and making burn/explode the battery(very remote case).

Litio are very solid but can be dangerous, on the other hand for nimh you need more care and a good smart charger to keep them healthy.

Can somebody also tell me how to recognize bad cells, by looking at there resting voltage?

I have some batteries, from a dead laptop....(not dead batterypack!) and would like to know if they are usable or not..
my TR001 only charged them up to 4.16-4.17V. (i dont know if my DMM is correct either)

If someone can give a link, then people dont have to explain it twice..


I noticed that my cheap charger charges at or outputs 600ma.

IF I get a charger that outputs 1 Amp- will this charge the batteries more quickly, and if so will it be 30 to 40% quicker?

Noticed an Ultrafire cheap dual charger that indicates 1 Amp.

High charger current will charge faster, but there are a couple of not as much faster as the current is higher.

With a CC/CV charger the charge phase is in two parts, first a CC (constant current), this part will be considerable faster. If you double the current, this phase will take less than half time.

The you have the CV (constant voltage), this is longer at higher charge current (because you reach the CV phase faster). How long it takes is also very much depend on the cutoff current, i.e. a charger that stops at 300mA will have a shorter CV phase, than one that stops at 100mA.

The above is only valid for chargers following a CC/CV charger curve, but very few chargers does that and on many cheap chargers you can not thrust the specified current either. You best bet is to find some reviews that uses comparable cells and see the actual charge time measured.

You could use the charger reviews on my website for that , the AW18650-22 cell I use has nearly the same capacity in all my measurements (albeit a low capacity).

Its very hard to determine that .. [ Cell condition ]

There are signs to watch for . but after charging and then discharging a bunch of 16340 ...

What to watch for =

Wont hold a charge , voltage drops faster than other batteries [ still not a sure sign ]

Sag after charging [ again not in any way 100% ]

To really sort out the crap from the crop so to speak , you need to discharge the cell , this is the only true way to tell ..

An example ..

I had a 16340 that charged to 4.2v and held it , voltage sagged very slowly over time [ as it should ]

There were no real warning signs that the cell had degraded , until discharged and the cell returned less than 200mAh capacity .

Originally it was maybe 530mAh , but after some 2 + years of light use , had degraded to under 200mAh

So if your hanging onto your batteries or trying to reclaim older batteries [ from laptops ] a hobby charger might be a invaluable tool to really know whats going on . [ running discharges ]

You dont need the most expensive , you just need one thats going to tell you what you need to know .

resting voltage will not always tell if you have a bad cell, discharging will, you can put them in a torch and gun them on high for a while then use a DMM but the best way would be to cycle them on a hobby charger, discharge and charge them a few times see how much mAh it give,s and takes and watch for voltage sag a bad cell will drop voltage quick once a load is put on it and maintained, the hobby charger will cutoff and stop if the cell,s voltage drops to low so there is no risk of over discharging.

the internal resistance of batteries play,s a big part in charging dishcarging and when people do current draw test on torches, imo cheap dedicated chargers would be affected by this more but thats mo.

ive tryed to bring back a couple of bad li-ion,s and li-po,s they dont realy come back i must admit i didnt spend much time on it but the mAh never improved and the the internal resistance only whent up and the li-po,s puffed, but ive been able to bring nimh back to life as my hobby charger has some good modes for that.

a good test to do is c rate,s over time say have 4 batteries with the same or close to internal resistance of each other and charge one at 0.2 amp one at 0.5amp one at 1 amp and the last one at 2 amp and then over time record the internal resistance and the amount of mAh they take.

ive noticed the battery charged at 0.2 amp will take more mAh and have a lower internal resistance then the one charged at 2 amp over time.

this is why parrallel charging in my mind is not the best as the cells spike quickly and dishcarge and charge each other at upto 2c + for li-ions even though its only for a short period i belive this will raise the internal resistance of the battery sorten its life and over time it will be able to give less current.

this is why i belive balance charging in series is better, but people want faster charge methods they want to charge one or two batteries at 1 + amps each unless they are top self batteries it will raise internal resistance of the batteries, i think your better off charging at lower charge rates like 0.5 amps yes it will take a little bit longer then charging at 1 amp but if you charge 6 at a time then its much quicker.

just my thoughts im half asleep

I would just like to confirm your results, I have noticed the same thing when testing batteries. I get them topped off completely with my TR-001 ~4.2v were my Accucell hobby charger leaves them a little off ~4.1v. I also get higher amperage readings from a battery that comes off the TR-001 compared to one that comes off the Accucell hobby charger. Thanks for confirming my suspicion.

E1320 i would do a test use the same charge rate on the Accucell hobby charger as the TR-001 and see how that turns out as i asume your using a higher charge rate on your hobby charger then your TR-001

i would also test your Accucell hobby charger as i found them like the imax,s to be off .04 volt + or - per cell and the voltage on the main charge leads to be the same.

if your Accucell hobby charger is saying the battery is 4.2v and it stops charging but you check it with your dmm and its 4.1 there is a good chance its not charging them to full and your TR-001 could be charging them to full or slightly over charging them.

this could also be why people are questioning there rested voltage of the cells after comming of there cheap hobby charger over charging (using to high amps) or inaccuracy or both

Thanks for the info!

To test your hobby charger !

Verify battery voltage first , let it rest for a while [ like 24 hours ] , then verify with MM ..

Now place in Hobby charger , what ever function you chose , it should test battery state [ voltage ] first and give a read out , before continuing with the function .

If the read out = MM then its calibrated correctly , if not , say its a little out , then you should be able to adjust the calibration [ iMax B6 can be adjusted ]

Unfortunately one cant program the charge cycle behavior . [ B6 ]

hey old is the imax b6 still a one shot deal with calibration

If mem serves , its a one shot thing for balance charging , for voltage calibration , as many times as it takes ...