How Do Electronic Cigarettes Work?

Published by Matt Brown on 13th Oct 2014

Over the past few months, we've talked about e-cigarette safety, vaping terminology, and even how to use your device. What may still remain a bit of a mystery, particularly for new vapers, is how they actually work.

This can become a little complicated, especially when we start to talk about various battery types, carts and tank setups. We'll try to keep things simple here.

An e-cig taken at the most basic level is a battery driven device, specifically designed to vaporise a liquid solution which will usually contain nicotine. This definition applies to all e-cigs, regardless of their aesthetics. The way in which your e-cig operates will broadly remain the same, no matter which device you choose to use.


The heart of any vape kit is its battery. What you'll find powering almost any e-cigarette is a rechargeable lithium-ion cell, which are used for their high energy density, and slow rates of depletion. These cells come in a variety of sizes and capacities (mAh), but the basic design remains the same.

Your choice of battery will determine the voltage available to power the e-ecig. Automatic batteries operate at 3.7v, while manual batteries operate at 4.2v. This difference in power has an effect on performance. More power means greater vapour production, and to an extent, throat hit. Also available are Variable Voltage models, which allow the user to select a voltage setting from anywhere between 3.3-4.8v.

Regardless of which form factor you are using (V3i, Vgo2 or JAC 510), any battery you select will contain a lithium-ion cell, as well the necessary electronics required to regulate and control its output.


If the heart of your device is the battery, the atomiser you choose to use is its brain. An atomiser is the component within an e cigarette which vaporises the e-liquid. It's a bit of a broad term, and is often used interchangeably with other terms like ‘coil'. Atomisers are found in a variety of different housings, from carts to tanks, but they all perform the same basic function.

Essentially, the coil in your device is a miniature heating element. Like a heating element, or the filament in a light bulb, they usually take the form of a short length of coiled wire (hence 'coil'). Power is delivered from your battery to the coil, which in turn begins to heat up. Once it reaches operating temperature, e-liquid will be vaporised and the vapour which is produced is what is inhaled.

The coil is fed with e-liquid via a length of absorbent material, most commonly referred to as a wick. Materials which are often used include silica, cotton yarn (as found in our current carts and tanks) or even stainless steel mesh.

The resistance of the coil determines the overall power output of your device. The wire used to produce the coil has a specific resistance value (measured in Ohms). The lower the Ohm number, the more heat is generated by the coil. This in turn means more vapour production and more throat hit (kick).

There are variables of course, particularly the voltage of the battery you are using, but in simple terms, the coil resists the power delivered to a greater or lesser degree, which affects the coil temp. Depending on what kind of device you are using, it's possible to select an atomiser with a higher or lower Ohm rating in order to find something that works for you.

Making a Connection

So, we've identified the two major components of any e cigarette; the battery and the atomiser. What brings it all together is the connection between the two.

Fitted on the top of each battery is a metal pin, surrounded by a threaded cylinder. Mounted on the base of each cart or tank is a matching pin and cylinder. By screwing one into the other, the two pins physically meet, completing the circuit and enabling the battery to power the atomiser.

This connection takes several different forms, which will dictate how well they perform as well as compatibility with other products. We offer two different connection types; 808 or 510.

808 (or KR808D-1 to give it its Sunday name) is the connection type found in our V3i and Vgo2 range of batteries, as well as our blank and pre-filled carts. We also offer a range of 808 compatible tanks. 510 is, unsurprisingly, the connection type found in our JAC 510 range of batteries and tanks.

Each connection type has its own pros and cons, but they perform the same basic function.

We have been working with the 808 connection for a long time, owing to its excellent performance and reliability, and continuous development and refinement has meant that we have been able to offer products of the highest quality and performance. The 808 connection is by far the best connection for a smaller e cigarette (like our V3i) as the switch arrangement allows for more power in a smaller battery, meaning better performance.

510, on other hand, is something much more recent for us, but widely adopted elsewhere. Having laid the groundwork with our V3i and Vgo2 products, we felt able this year to offer a range of 510 products which match the quality and performance of our 808 line-up. The added advantage of the 510 connection is its prevalence, meaning added flexibility and opportunities for experimentation. In the larger battery options (2nd generation) it's more advisable to opt for a 510 connection due to it being the industry standard now. Most new technology will be developed for this thread.

Switching it Up

Having established all of the major components found in your e cigarette, all that remains is to decide how you'd like to activate it. This is where the switch comes in. There are two common switch types available, both of which have their own advantages.

Batteries fitted with an automatic switch are the easiest to use, and most closely simulate the action of smoking a tobacco cigarette. These switches are controlled by an airflow sensor, meaning that all you have to do is take a draw from your cart or tank and the battery will fire automatically.

Manual switches, however, require a physical input in order to function. In the case of our Vgo2 and JAC 510 manual batteries, this input is a small button located on the barrel which must be pushed and held for the duration of the draw. Manual switches are also what can be found on our range of Twist batteries.

Each has its benefits (auto batteries are simple to use, manual batteries offer greater power and efficiency and control), but both perform the most important job within your e-cig; making it work. In general go for an auto switch in a small device (like the V3i), and go for a manual switch in the bigger devices (JAC 510 Ego, Vgo2 or mods). Don't be put off by the thought of using a manual switch, they become second nature very quickly, and once you've used one for a week, you'll never look back.

Quality Matters

We've discussed this previously, but just as it's important to know exactly how your device works, it's vital that vapers are confident that they are using quality products.

It is essential that when choosing your vape kit that you look for certain things which should give you an idea as to its quality and safety. Any device you select should bear the CE marking, which indicates that it meets EU safety standards, as well as having ROHS certification.

All of our hardware and e-liquid is tested thoroughly in order to ensure that it meets our safety standards.

If you are ever in any doubt, don't take the risk! There are many sub-par products out there, which may offer poor performance at best, or be downright dangerous at worst. Always make sure that the kit you pick comes from a reputable supplier and follows these safety protocols.

Although two e-cigarette batteries can look very similar, they can perform very differently. In general you get what you pay for; a cheap battery will have a lower quality internal cell, and will probably be missing safety features and consist of lower quality components. At JAC Vapour we take care to make sure our products are built to the highest specification and never cut corners.