It's also rather surprising, to say the least.
The long and short of it is this: you can't sell 18650 Lithium Ion batteries/cells on eBay any more, as of August 2020.
This was first spotted when trying to sell a job lot of 18650 sells on eBay, and getting an error message during listing because it had noticed the word "18650" in the title.
This was then confirmed during this eBay Community thread.
It does not take much to realize that a lot of sellers, including myself, will be affected. I have sold various 18650 Li-Ion batteries, and for good reason: they are commonly found in laptop battery packs and are even more commonplace when creating DIY solar power banks, powerwalls, and EV/E-bike battery packs.
Even in smaller electronic appliances, such as flashlights, work lights and mobile phone powerbanks, 18650 batteries are commonplace and will continue to be commonplace, due to their high energy density.
As of August 24, 2020, there are still almost 10,000 eBay listings for 18650 batteries - though some of these are likely to be for battery chargers, or electronic appliances that take these cells. That still leaves a significant amount of 18650 cells on eBay.
The exact quote that I received when listing my item was: "Due to product safety concerns, 18650 batteries are not allowed unless they are included with a product or accessory designed to use them."
Product safety concerns?!
If these cells are stored correctly, they do not pose a risk.
The only time they pose a risk is as follows:
- Overcharge: cell is above 4.2V
- Overdischarge: cells is below 2.5V
- Overcurrent: charge/discharge current exceeds the cell rating, or cell is shorted out
- Overheat: cell is heated to an excessive temperature
- Damage: cell is physically damaged
Note that the above list is for genuine, high quality lithium ion cells from the manufacturers.
The problem is that on eBay (and some other sites), there are various fake cells: these are no name/generic cells (such as GTF/Ultrafire etc) that are either imported directly from China (or some other overseas country), or are sold via a UK warehouse (or seller) that has imported these themselves from another country.
These cells are not made to the same specifications as genuine manufacturer cells: they are often made poorly and to a low standard, thus sacrificing quality and safety. They often have overstated capacities inside (often up to as much as 12,000mAh!) which are false, and nowhere near reality. Many "fake" batteries are very light (they can weigh up to 50% less than a genuine cell!) and often have about 500mAh capacity only. They cannot withstand any sort of reasonable discharge current.
It is these fake cells that eBay should be clamping down on as they pose a safety risk - and NOT the genuine cells from leading manufacturers (often found in laptop battery packs).
Apparently, eBay are sending out messages such as this:
All of the safety risks mentioned above can easily be mitigated: by wrapping the cells securely (i.e. wrapping each cell individually, so that the contacts/terminals are covered - and then placing them in a way which prevents the cells' terminals from coming into contact with each other), you eliminate the risk of short circuits during shipping, as well as that of cell damage. By making sure that the cells are charged appropriately (many chargers have a storage setting, for long term storage - cells should be charged to approximately 3.7V - 3.82V for long term storage), you eliminate the risk of overcharge and overdischarge (most good quality Li-Ion battery chargers will not allow a cell to be overcharged). That just leaves overheating, and given the temperatures that we have in the UK, it would be very rare for a cell to overheat during shipping.
What eBay are currently doing is abusing their powers (especially as they are clearly the dominant online marketplace) and making it much more difficult to source these lithium batteries. This in turn will increase demand and make the prices shoot up, since they still have a good use and purpose.
The long and short of this is that I will continue to sell Lithium Cells on eBay until the bitter end - as there is clearly still a demand for them, the risk of shipping them are minimized, and it is still highly profitable. However, I also urge people to look around on other online marketplaces, to check availability.
Gumtree still let you sell these cells, and likewise with Facebook Marketplace: furthermore, there may be specialist forums about, that are particularly suited to EV projects, powerwalls, and other uses for these cells.
It will not be long before eBay's silly restrictions mark the start of its own demise.