Teardown: Good Looking Counterfeit Nikon EN-EL14a Battery

Despite having thought that I kissed my money goodbye, I still went back to eBay to lodge a case. Within 24 hours, without any word, I received a refund and the case was considered closed. As I did receive a silent refund, I felt it was important to uphold “my end” of the bargain and destroy the items, including the accessories they came with.

That being said, destruction can be a highly educational undertaking, and thus, this teardown is being documented for the community to have a better understanding of what is inside a counterfeit battery.

Teardown

The battery has a glued seam around the edge. It took some work with a side-cutter at a corner to get enough leverage to start cracking around the seam. Once we have gone around completely, the shell separates.

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Inside, we can already see a green “insulating” card which seems to be common amongst Chinese made clone cells. The pack is then pulled out of the shell, to which it is adhered with a ring of double-sided adhesive cardboard.

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This already gives me a sense of deja vu – this clone had the same sticky rectangle, could they be related?

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A look at the top PCB seems to show it has only a limited number of components. There is one main IC, likely a microcontroller or FPGA, a MOSFET, and a few other battery protection ICs. Separating the PCB from the battery shows that it was connected by plain tabs, with no one time protective fuse for permanent protection or thermal protection of any sort.

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The underside of the PCB shows a silkscreen marking of RHD033-V11 dated 17th June 2014. This is exactly the same code as the failed EN-EL14 compatible, except that was version 4, rather than 11, which explains the subtle changes in the PCB layout.

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The battery pack itself was very poor in size. Almost 1/3rd of the volume is occupied by a foam spacer between the two cells, indicating incorrectly sized cells for the form factor – it doesn’t properly take advantage of the volume of the cell.

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After tearing all the tabs off the cells, and disassembling the pack, we find the two cells. Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel the need to tear off all the adhesive double-sided tape once I realized there was no print. On one side, there is no markings, but the vent “slit” is cut into the same sort of place in the can. Of concern is the left cell which shows some deformation in the outer can, indicating harsh treatment during manufacturing.

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The opposite side of both cells shows a discrepancy – one cell is marked, the other is not. This implies the cells are not matched, and are instead somehow from different batches, likely with different capacities. This is not the way to build a multiple-cell pack, and will likely lead to early failure. This is exactly the same thing I witnessed with the failed previous compatible pack with the came PCB.

The marked cell is marked LSLP463446RE ER19BG121204. From this, it seems it is likely a Tianjin Lishen battery, LP463446 rated at 830mAh which is likely originally intended for an older feature phone. This means the “1230mAh” battery is really 830mAh (67%) at the best, if it works.

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The tops of the cells look similar, but a strange spotted pattern is seen in the outer metal can.

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This seems to continue with the bottom, but the unmarked cell is actually marked with LS LP463446RF E007 BK08.

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A check of the open circuit voltage seems to show exactly what I had suspected because of the flashing LED on the charger – the left cell is happily sitting right next to 100% state-of-charge, while the other series partner is down at about 50-60% state-of-charge.

I also tore down the second battery to find exactly the same components inside, although the charge was balanced correctly across both cells in the other unit. The question is how long would it have lasted, and my guess is, at most, a year.

Conclusion

With the right level of careful comparison, it is still possible to distinguish a good looking counterfeit. Tearing down the item proves that the item internally resembles a compatible battery produced by a third party, one that also failed in a similar way. This suggests the components used in these batteries are of low quality, and are prone to failure.

As a result, everything has been torn apart and destroyed for disposal, to uphold my end of the “deal”, even though it was not explicitly requested.

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About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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One Response to Teardown: Good Looking Counterfeit Nikon EN-EL14a Battery

  1. Fans says:

    Asbestos is not a RoHS. That green papery sheet insulation ….

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