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Vape History: The Evolution of Sub-ohm Tanks

Vape history is something that has always fascinated me.  I love looking at outdated products and seeing how they paved the way for the products that are on the market today.  Although I’m not a huge fan of sub-ohm tanks anymore (I prefer rebuildables), they were a significant part of my vaping journey.  The trend really started taking off right about the time I was delving into the hobbyist side of vaping.  I distinctly remember the buzz at the beginning, the dramatic shift in the hardware and e-liquid markets, as well as the exciting innovations over the past several years.  So, just to mix things up, I thought I’d put together a summary of the highlights for you guys.  I’m basically doing this from memory, so feel free to correct any of my errors in the comments down below.

Vape History: The Evolution of Sub-ohm Tanks


Kanger Aerotank Turbo

  • Release Date: Mid / Late 2014
  • E-liquid Capacity: 6mL
  • Diameter: 30mm

Many people will debate this one, as the Aspire Atlantis is generally considered to be the first sub-ohm tank on the market.  The Kanger Aerotank Turbo was actually released a few months before the Atlantis.  It’s probably not fair to call it a true sub-ohm tank, but it certainly falls into a gray area that seemed to prelude the big shift in the market.  And that is why I thought it was worth mentioning.

Aside from being a massive 30mm tank (when everything else was 18mm – 22mm), the Aerotank Turbo’s most notable feature was that it used 2 individual coil heads.  At the time, Kanger’s coils came in resistances of 1.0Ω – 1.8Ω; pair 2 of those coils together (splitting the resistance in half) and suddenly you’re in the sub-ohm territory!

[CONTROVERSY] There were some serious concerns when this tank was released.  Most of the popular regulated devices couldn’t handle such low resistances (and, obviously, you should never put a stock coil tank on a mech mod), thus many feared this tank was an accident waiting to happen.


Aspire Atlantis

  • Release Date: Late 2014
  • E-liquid Capacity: 2mL
  • Diameter: 22mm

The Aspire Atlantis needs no introduction.  Total game-changer.  Aspire was still riding the success of the Nautilus Mini when the Atlantis was released, so expectations were especially high.  While some of its predecessors may have fallen into a gray area, the Atlantis stepped boldly into direct-lung territory.  It offered big sub-ohm coil heads (by 2014 standards!) with big airflow and a wide bore drip tip to match.  It was an exciting time in vaping.  Finally, regular vapers who didn’t use rebuildables or mech mods could experience a direct-lung/sub-ohm style vape.

[CONTROVERSY] Some of you may recall the infamous “coil/wicking drama” with the original Atlantis.  Upon release, they were using was some sort of brittle silica material.  When people dissected their used coils, many noticed big chunks of the wicking were missing (most likely inhaled…yikes!).  This led to some serious health concerns, but it ended well as the situation brought about a new standard for the industry: Organic Cotton.  In fact, after the incident, most manufacturers used organic cotton as a big selling point for their tanks.


Kanger Subtank

  • Release Date: Late 2014
  • E-liquid Capacity: 6mL
  • Diameter: 25mm

Shortly after the Atlantis was released the Kanger Subtank came along to give it some healthy competition.  It was a significantly larger tank (25mm vs 22mm), which some people weren’t fond of, but it was also much more versatile.  It seems Kanger attempted to cater to everyone with this release.  The package included a low resistance coil (0.5Ω), a high resistance coil (1.2Ω), an RBA deck, and a beauty ring so it would fit better on smaller devices.  As an added bonus, it was even compatible with their popular ProTank/Aerotank coils (MTL).  Overall, the Atlantis may have been slightly more popular, but the Subtank was also very well-received.  And naturally, Kanger proceeded to release several variations of it in 2015.

[CONTROVERSY] Likely in response to the Atlantis coil situation, Kanger quickly switched up their coil heads before the Subtank was released (possibly shortly after).  The new versions were called the Kanger OCC heads (Organic Cotton Coils), variations of which was are still being used today.


Uwell Crown

  • Release Date: Early / Mid 2015
  • E-liquid Capacity: 4mL
  • Diameter: 24mm

During the first half of 2015, TONS of sub-ohm tanks hit the market.  Everyone wanted a piece of the action.  But, much like the pod system craze of late, most of these companies weren’t bringing anything new to the table.  And then an unknown company called Uwell starts turning heads with their very first product: the Uwell Crown Tank.  It’s hard to say exactly when it officially hit the market, because (if I recall correctly), they didn’t have US distribution right away.  But once word got out, everyone was carrying it.

Its most notable feature was the top-fill design, which was an especially innovative concept at the time.  After the Crown was released (along with the original Tobeco Super Tank), top-fill became a new industry standard.  It was a bit more expensive than most tanks, but you got a lot for your money.  The Uwell Crown came with 3x replacement coils and a spare glass tube (uncommon in early 2015).  Speaking of which, Uwell was one of the first manufacturers (possibly THE first) to use stainless steel wire in their coils.  They also used quartz glass, which was much more durable than that of most tanks.

[CONTROVERSY] As mentioned, not a lot of people were using stainless steel wire at the time, and there was a considerable amount of speculation concerning its safety when used in vaping devices.


Smok TFV4

  • Release Date: Mid 2015
  • E-liquid Capacity: 5mL
  • Diameter: 24.5mm

Smok had already been around for a while, but they really made a name for themselves in the last half of 2015 when they released 2 extremely popular products: the X-Cube II and the TFV4 Sub-ohm Tank.  I gotta hand it to them, they were smart.  Much like Aspire with the original Atlantis Tank, Smok saw where the industry was going and embraced it unapologetically.

In comparison to the rest of the market, the Smok TFV4 was a behemoth.  It had a 24.5mm diameter, 5mL e-liquid capacity, wide-open airflow, and the biggest coil heads on the market.  Not only that, but the coils came in a huge variety of different styles, some of which seemed unthinkable at the time (quad-coils…WHAT?!).  And, of course, this is also when they debuted their signature swivel top-fill design, which a lot of vapers (including myself) thought was the coolest thing ever!

[CONTROVERSY] To be fair, vapers didn’t exactly fall in love with the original Smok TFV4.  It was a big tank, too big for a lot of people.  In response to this, Smok released the TFV4 Mini a few months later, which ended up being much more popular than its predecessor.


Vaporesso Target Tank

  • Release Date: Late 2015
  • E-liquid Capacity: 3.5mL
  • Diameter: 22mm

Some of you might be wondering why the Vaporesso Target Tank, which was mostly forgettable, is on this list.  My answer: ceramic coils.  Vaporesso was one of the first manufacturers to succeed in making a decent ceramic coil (cCell) for a sub-ohm tank, which was included with their original Target Kit.

This idea quickly became a trend and multiple ceramic tanks hit the market in 2016.  A few examples: the Horizon Krixus, Gigue Dolphin, Ceravape Cerabis, and the Freemax Starre Pure.  For a while, it seemed like ceramic coils might be the future of the industry, but ultimately, the idea lost steam.  Ceramic coils are still being used today, but mostly in pod systems, CBD/THC oil vaporizers, and some MTL devices.

[CONTROVERSY] In case you’re not noticing the trend here, pretty much every new technology has brought a fair share of controversy along with it.  Many people were concerned that ceramic was too brittle and particles could potentially break off and be inhaled.  Fortunately, Vapor Shark took it upon themselves to send the coils in for 3rd party testing.  The reports showed that they were totally safe for use.


Aspire Cleito

  • Release Date: Early 2016
  • E-liquid Capacity: 3.5mL
  • Diameter: 22mm

Here’s another tank you might be surprised to find on this list.  The Aspire Cleito was a fine tank in its own right, but I’m specifically mentioning it because it was responsible for introducing something new to the tank scene: Bubble Glass!  Although it wasn’t included with the tank, the “Fat Boy Glass” was released a few months later.  It’s generally assumed that this oddly shaped glass piece was created because the Cleito RBA deck (which was released at about the same time) was so large.  Rather than increase the height of an already-tall tank, they simply offered a wider glass.  And the rest is history!

[CONTROVERSY] No real controversy here, except for the fact that people seem to be divided when it comes to bubble tanks.  Some love ‘em, others hate ‘em.  It’s fair to assume that those in the latter crowd are annoyed that the concept has nearly become an industry standard.


Freemax Fireluke Mesh

  • Release Date: Late 2017
  • E-liquid Capacity: 3mL
  • Diameter: 24mm

Mesh made a big comeback in 2017.  Towards the middle of the year, a few manufacturers released RDAs that used mesh as a heating element (examples: Cthulhu Ceto, Vandy Vape Mesh RDA, Digiflavor Mesh Pro, etc.).  Unfortunately, most of them weren’t very good…but it clearly was an idea that people were excited about.  Freemax picked up the idea and ran with it.  Rather than create an RDA, they wisely incorporated the concept into one of their biggest strengths: coil heads.

In December 2017, they released the Fireluke Mesh Tank along with their new mesh coils.  Obviously, it was a big hit since mesh coils have now become the industry standard for sub-ohm tanks.  They seem to be getting better and better too.

[CONTROVERSY] There really wasn’t anything controversial about Fireluke Mesh Tank, but it’s no secret that many were initially reluctant to embrace the idea of using mesh in coil heads.  The experiences with some of the mesh RDAs—specifically, the horrific dry hits—left many users with a bad taste in their mouths (literally!).  Mesh was on the verge of becoming a dirty word in the industry…until Freemax came along and made it work to near perfection.


Did I Miss Anything???

Feel free to leave a comment down below.  Thanks for reading!


Jeremy V.

My name is Jeremy and I’ve been writing for VAPE.DEALS since early 2016.  Digging for deals is what I do!  I’m a former 15-year smoker and will always be grateful that I found vaping when I did.  This site played a key role in my journey.  It kept me interested and excited about vaping during those first crucial months away from cigarettes.  Now, my ambition is to pass along that excitement to others; to help people make the switch and never return to combustible cigarettes.  This industry is important and I feel truly blessed to be a part of it.  Please feel free to reach out to me if you ever have any questions: [email protected]

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