Abstract The commercial lithium ion cells with LiCoO 2 as cathode, artificial graphite as anode and 1 M LiPF 6/EC–DEC–EMC (ethylene carbonate–diethyl carbonate–dimethyl carbonate) (1:1:1, v/v/v) with additives (1 wt.% vinylene carbonate (VC) + 1 wt.% propylene sulfite (PS)) as electrolyte were aged at 60% and 100% state of charge (SOC) for 6 months at room temperature and the corresponding cycle performance was measured. Charge/discharge results showed that the capacity retentions after 100 cycles were in the order of fresh cell >60% SOC > 100% SOC. The composition of SEI on the anode was analyzed by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and the sulfur atom in PS was used as a tagged atom in XPS analysis. The results suggested that the transformation of organic species to inorganic species and the species containing sulfur atom from the reduction of PS was dissolved for the cells aged at 60% and 100% SOC. The SEM and XPS surface and depth profile analysis showed that the increase of the thickness of SEI layer and the variation of compositions on storage or cycling, is one of the most important reasons that results in the deterioration of the cycle performance of commercial lithium ion cells aged at 60% and 100% SOC at room temperature for 6 months.