Quite a number of companies in New Zealand sell fully made batteries, but there are very few sellers of individual cells. I've reviewed a couple here based on their web presence and my interactions with them, and listed a couple of other TradeMe sellers.
LiFePO4 batteries are products which are going to become more and more important, but the cheap batteries are very poorly put together. This makes assembling one's own battery from cells a more attractive option, while still keeping the total price down.
Payment options: Credit card, EFTPOS (in store), cash, bank transfer.
LiFePO4 cells sold.
CALB L160F100, 100 Ah. (The only NZ source I've found for these cells.)
Sold singly, 4 pieces, or 8 pieces; includes terminal nuts and, for 4 or 8 cells, busbars. Sadly, if buying 8 cells you will have to ask for enough busbars.
Chinese owned and operated business, with all the dodgy specs, broken English and typos that come with that.
My initial impression was that the company was just selling the cells and the staff really didn't know what they were selling. The product listings have improved a bit since then, but there's still a distinct lack of understanding of what's important, meaning basic details are missing from product listings.
There are signs that the quality of Micromall's fully made battery products are improving over time, but I still wouldn't buy one. However, some of the included battery meters on the fully made batteries offer better features than any of the opposition which are close to a reasonable price.
High rating on TradeMe (99.9% positive with a rating of 15,333), but very few of those are from LiFePO4 cell sales, which Micromall has only recently started selling.
The Micromall website says it started in 2010. If so, what was the business doing until 2014 when the company name, TradeMe account and domain name were all registered?
The manual for these cells is not available, I think partly due to the cell model being quite new, but it means there's a worrying lack of information about these cells.
The 8 cell listing states it includes 6 busbars, but 7 busbars are needed for a 24 V battery, or 11 busbars for a 12 V battery.
After prompting, Micromall has said 7 or 11 busbars would be supplied as needed. Micromall continues to mention only 6 busbars in product listings, without mentioning the option of providing the needed amount. This is not respecting the customer, and it's not showing an understanding of the product.
If buying the 8 cell pack make sure you sort out in writing beforehand how many busbars you need.
21 Feb 2022: While doing due diligence on the GST number on a Micromall invoice today I found out the company will be removed from the companies register next month (March 2022) because of no annual return last November (or since). Oh dear.
This company is now overdue in its obligation to file an annual return. If the annual return is not filed immediately the Registrar will initiate action to remove the company from the register.
The Registrar intends to remove the company under section 318 of the Companies Act 1993. Refer to the latest Public notices <https://companies-register.companiesoffice.govt.nz/news-and-notices>. If you object to its removal, you may wish to contact the company in the first instance or lodge your objection before 5pm on 22 Mar 2022 by selecting this link <https://app.companiesoffice.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/compliance/5160081/removalObjection>.
I mentioned it to Micromall and the reply took less than two hours – an apology and a statement saying she would ask the accountant to sort it ASAP. A bit over half an hour later and the return had been made (and showed up on the Companies Office website). Total time 2 hours 18 minutes.
I'm really quite impressed with the speed of the fix. But why did it take a random would-be customer pointing it out to get it done? It can't have been much trouble if it only took that long to file the return.
From the dates of previous returns this is not the first time that returns have not been filed in time.
Getting back to the invoice itself:
The accompanying email said the invoice has been added to my account. It has not. (If it had it should be under Orders, and listed as unpaid.)
Perhaps that's related to the "SOLD TO" field on the invoice being blank. Only the "SHIP TO" field has my details.
It has no mention of including the correct number of busbars (11 of them), or any busbars, for that matter.
I have no secure way of knowing Micromall's bank account number for a direct payment. The invoice has no mention of the bank account; that detail was included in the email itself, but email (along with any attached PDF) is not secure. I have a strong aversion to trusting emailed bank account numbers for large transfers. I know (first-hand knowledge, not a friend's spouse's second cousin's neighbour) of a case where an email address was hacked and resulted in a very large payment being directed into a fraudulent account. PB Tech has its bank account number easily findable on its website – an information source which is secure between the website and the customer – but Micromall has not provided this, even after prompting.
The best payment method Micromall has been able to offer so far is visiting the company in Glenfield to use EFTPOS. That would take an hour and use quite a significant amount of petrol. Micromall is not open in the weekend.
Company name: Smart Electronics Tech Limited, trading as SETL Energy.
Payment options: Cash, bank transfer. Website also mentions Paypal, Wechat Pay, Alipay. I strongly advise against using POLi, because it requires giving bank account login details to a third party, which is a serious security risk and breaks your bank's terms and conditions.
LiFePO4 cells sold.
EVE LF280, 280 Ah. M6 terminals.
CALB L173F230, 230 Ah. M6 terminals.
The cells sold are not the ones pictured. They actually have a female terminal block and have M6 bolts included (they need a size 3 Allen key, not included), along with nuts and double layer links/busbars. This means the vertical height is not what was specified.
Top of cell = 205 mm; top of terminal blocks = 219 mm; top of (removable/optional) terminal bolts = 229 mm (instead of 222 mm).
Both varieties are may be available.
EVE LF105, 105 Ah. M4 screw terminals.
EVE LF50K, 50 Ah. M4 screw terminals.
Chinese broken English and typos in places, basic details missing from product listings. (This is improving.)
Some nice products at reasonable prices.
Update June 2023 – now located in Albany, Auckland, from where orders may be collected. (Used to be in New Lynn, which was much more central and convenient for pickup.)
Because the website is so new, things are still really in a state of flux. You should expect some inconsistencies and errors for a little while.
Sells BMSes on TradeMe but BMSes and inverters are not yet on the website, although there are pages for them. (Really, it's still a very new site.)
Has not been operating long, so no long-term track record, but in my dealings with him he is determined to do the right thing.
Very good communication (once he got his email working), and is pro-active about getting in touch regarding possible problems. Questions on TradeMe are also answered promptly.
Cells have been listed on TradeMe which are not in stock. (They were said to be arriving just a few days later.)
Prices on website are quite variable. They change up and down frequently. (This could be a new website issue, and seem more stable now.)
In the process of getting the website up and running, incorrect product photos were posted.
These issues have been fixed...
Except that the photos are still wrong because the actual cells have a quite different style of terminal. Apparently the supplier sent two types of terminal but that detail got lost somewhere along the line. Having the choice is very nice; it shouldn't be a surprise.
Cell warranty is 12 months on website but 24 months on TradeMe.
The four cells packaged in one box are not from the same batch. Mine were from 27 Oct 2020, 12 Dec 2020, 28 Feb 2021 and 16 Apr 2021. In the limited testing I've done the cells have good consistency, and the partial charge delivery voltage was also very consistent.
The cells have what I presume are minor cosmetic defects. I have no idea how typical this is for "A grade" cells from China.
EVE LF280K 280 Ah cells, M6 stud terminal. Each cell includes 1 busbar and two nuts.
Listing is clear and to the point; it states the terminal type, it includes pics of the datasheet.
Located on North Shore, Auckland; buyer must collect.
No shipping option.
Fluxx Group NZ
TradeMe: jesseft from 28 April 2012 (but at time of writing only has a rating of 2).
Payment options: Cash or bank transfer.
LiFePO4 cells sold.
REPT 280 Ah cells.
CALB 100 Ah, old plastic case type. (I believe these have been discontinued in favour of the newer smaller lighter aluminium case type, but were quite popular overseas.)
Clear details in product listing.
Cells in stock and tested at factory. Cells individually labelled with true capacity.
Located in Motueka, can deliver to Nelson area.
No shipping options stated, but listing says "We can arrange freight Nationwide."
Micromall appears to be a typical Chinese-run company, featuring broken English and typos in product descriptions, unsupported/possibly exaggerated specs (are the cycle figures for 100% depth of discharge?), incomplete specs (how big are the terminals bolts?), incomplete inclusion list, etc – all the sort of thing I'd expect to see on Ebay, not from a New Zealand company.
SETL Energy is still in the process of getting established, and has had a few problems related to that, but appears to be well on the way to becoming a reliable company. It's not there quite yet, but already it is considerably easier to deal with than Micromall.
Both of these companies are in several ways not quite getting the basics right:
Make sure product specs are correct, and complete.
Customers need to know if the cells are suitable for their particular uses. Provide the information which will actually be needed for customers to use the things!
Basic details should not need ANY clarification at all. Customers should not need to query the basics.
Support claims with datasheets and manuals.
Clearly state what's included. Customers need to know what they're buying. Again, there should be no doubt, and no need to query the basics.
The product should not turn out to be quite different from what is advertised. There should be no surprises.
Answer emails in a timely fashion. Indeed, answer emails! Getting answers quickly gives customers confidence that the business is already looking after them.
Fulfil legal requirements. Customers want good prices, but not at the risk of buying from a dodgy company.
Get annual returns in on time.
Don't list products not in stock unless it's clearly mentioned that the products are en route, and when the products are due.
Describe products accurately.
Make it easy and safe to pay.
Email is not a secure way to send a bank account number, especially when New Zealand does not require its banks to match the account number with the account name; the account name is ignored.
PB Tech lists its bank account number on its website, which uses encryption to transmit the website data to your web browser.
In short, there's much room for improvement for both companies, even in the basics. If you want a purchase without any hassle at all you probably shouldn't consider buying from them. However, with the state of the LiFePO4 cell market in New Zealand at the moment, if you want to put your own battery together from cells you should be prepared to get a few problems along the way.
Having said that, SETL Energy is a new company that is still sorting things out and the service I've had from Henry leaves me quite happy to buy from him again (even if there are issues). His next shipment of large capacity cells is due mid May 2022.
The other two companies do not have cells I'm presently interested in, so I haven't tried to make contact.
Finally, it is very hard to find a battery box which is tall enough to comfortably fit the popular 230 Ah or 280 Ah cells! (Especially if wanting room in the lid of the battery box for a fuse box.)
independent kiwi spirit of invention.