The easiest way to put hands on some 18650 cells is to extract them from old laptop or electric scooter batteries. There are also other devices working on this type of cells, but they are not so popular and the amount of cells inside is not great.
In this example I will retrieve 6 cells from standard notebook battery from Dell Latitude series, but the steps are similar for any type of laptop which is using 18650. Recently most of the notebook production moved to thinner and flat type of cells. The problem with them is that they have shorter life and charge/discharge cycles.
You need to be very careful when you working with lithium cells. They store a lot of energy and you can easily start fire if you are not following standard safety rules and precautions. Lithium Polymer and Li-ion batteries are volatile. Failure to follow the below instructions may result in fire, personal injury and damage to property if charged or used improperly.
Also, I’m recommending the use of protecting gloves, because many of the components in the battery pack are connected by sharp nickel stripes and you can easily injure yourself.
So let’s get started and move to the basic steps to accomplish this.
What you will need? I’m adding links to the required tools on sale at AliExpress.
Supplies and Tools
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- Laptop Battery – Check on Ebay or some local Recycling point.
- Anti-static Gloves – Finger Protective.
- Pliers or Wire Cutter.
- Smart Tester Charger or Intelligent charger. I’m using few different types during the years and they are doing great job.
Fast charger. It will charge the battery, and can indicate faulty cells.
– Nitecore D4 D2 I4 I2 Digicharger LCD Intelligent Circuitry Global Battery Charger 18650
Tester Charger. It will charge the batteries and test the capacity. It can show you the storage amount of each 18650 cell. I recommend using this type of device. Liitokala is offering very nice model for this purpose.
– Liitokala lii500 LCD Display Battery Charger
Step 1: Open the laptop battery
Break the body of the battery by turning or squeezing both ends in opposite directions until battery’s plastic case cracks, then try to separate top side from the bottom. Gently remove the cell block from the plastic enclosure.
Step 2: Retrieve the 18650 cells
Once you have the cell pack out from the enclosure, start cutting the wires connecting it to the BMS board (Battery Management System). Be careful and try not to short any lose cable or nickel stripes together. Use the pliers to remove all nickel stripes from the cells.
Step 3: Charge and Test
Once you have all cells out and clean from cables and nickel stripes it is time to test and charge.
If you are using one of the chargers from the links above it is very easy to locate any faulty cell. Once you placed them in the charger – all good cells will start charging. If the cell is not OK the charger will indicate it as invalid and faulty.
That’s all. Now you have your first batch of upcycled 18650 cells for your future projects. Don’t forget to properly recycle the leftovers from the battery like its plastic case, BMS and nickel stripes and cables.
Here is a short visualization of the process in video format:
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