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Batteries and Chargers for Today's Power Tools

Before the days of cordless tools, contractors had to avoid tripping over endless yards of cumbersome, coiled extension cords connected to whatever electrical outlet was available. Or, they had to haul all material being worked on to a central jobsite location where their power tools were anchored by a mass of electrical power cords. Picking up an untethered power tool and moving freely around a jobsite was just a dream.
 
Then in 1961, Black+Decker liberated workers everywhere by introducing the first CORDLESS power drill. No power cord needed! You could carry your battery-operated power drill anywhere. Viva la revolution!
 
Now, over 60 years, and several battery revolutions later — as the power tool industry continues to introduce increasingly innovative technology into professional cordless tools, making batteries smaller, lighter, more powerful, run longer on a single charge, and less expensive — cordless tools have become the power tool standard. In fact, the cordless power tools you use at work and at your home are very similar to those being used in space by our astronauts.

Cordless Safety Advantages

Cordless power tools have many advantages over corded tools. Let’s review a few very important ones. Even when following OSHA’s guidelines, extension cords on corded tools can create dangerous situations: 
 
  • Fire Hazards - Be sure to use a cord that is rated for the power equipment you’re using to avoid overheating which can start a fire. Make sure cords are not damaged. Immediately unplug any cord that feels warm or if you notice smoke coming from the electrical outlet.
  • Electrocution Hazards - Most extension cords have built-in safety features to protect against electrocution, but be sure to regularly check all extension cords for loose plugs and fraying wires. Cords should have grounding plugs. Never trim or clip plug blades nor splice cords together. Never use an extension cord in a wet area.
  • Trip Hazards - Cluttered floor space, dim lighting, and slippery surfaces add to the possibility of tripping and falling over extension cords. Minimize hazardous conditions by running extension cords along a wall or tape the cords down to a dry floor surface in regular intervals.





Metabo-HPT Multivolt 18-volt_36-volt lithium-ion battery

Reducing Your Labor Costs While Increasing Your Productivity

Among the advantages that cordless power tools offer is the opportunity to help your business by potentially eliminating the extra time-cost of cable management. Most cordless tools come with a powerful, interchangeable Lithium-ion battery that holds its charge for months when not in use.

Mobility
Without a cord, you don’t have to rely on finding an electrical outlet. Whatever you need to do, wherever you need to do it, cordless power tools allow you the ability to work in tight spaces, high locations, and move around safely without the danger of tripping over yards of tangled extension cords.

Storage
It’s easy for cordless power tools! No bulky cords to wind and try to store. Most cordless power tools come with a self-contained carrying case for the tool and accompanying battery.

Also, when working with extension cords, typically a specific person is assigned the responsibility of unwrapping, connecting, and then breaking down and packing up all cords on the jobsite. Plus, that person should be responsible for developing and managing an OSHA-approved safety plan in case of electrocution, smoke, overheating cords and plugs, fire, and evacuation.


Old and New Makita Lithium Ion Batteries


 


Today's Batteries vs. Yesterday's

Li-ion Replaces Ni-Cd
Invented in 1899, and considered the king of rechargeable batteries decades before Lithium-ion, nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries were the granddaddy of electronic and cordless tool batteries. But since Milwaukee Tools introduced its V28 battery platform in 2005, there’s been a newer, smaller, and lighter option for cordless power tools - the Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.

And Li-ion aren’t just for cordless power tools; you’ll find environmentally friendly Li-ion batteries in your toothbrush, your tablet, laptop, even your watch, and your electric car. Ni-Cd batteries have become outdated, and because one of their key ingredients is the eco-toxic cadmium, Europe has banned their use.

 

Some of the Li-ion Advantages:

  • Longer battery life - A great advantage for users relying on powerful batteries for professional grade power tools. This benefit means you’ll recharge batteries less often which also extends the time between battery replacements, a big money saver.

  • High energy density - One of Li-ion’s main advantages allows the battery to operate longer at higher power between charges and in a smaller, more lightweight size than other batteries.

  • Longer run times - One charge cycle is use from fully charged to full discharged and fully charged again. Li-ion batteries usually last 2-3 years or 300-to-500 charge cycles. 

  • Constant power - Full power throughout the entire battery’s capacity to the very end. No slow drain.

  • 3x more power - Each Li-ion cell can deliver up to 3.6V for high power applications; that’s 3x more current than Ni-Cd or Ni-MH or a standard alkaline cell. Triple power in each cell means less cells are needed which equates to a smaller battery design.


Milwaukee M18 12.0 Amp Hour High-Output Lithium Ion Battery and Charger

 
  • Faster charge time - Once at full charge, there is little overcharge, extending the battery’s life span.

  • Zero memory effect - No need to drain the Li-ion battery before recharging.

  • Lighter weight in a compact design - Weighing 30-40% less than Ni-Cd, Li-ion batteries reduce fatigue which reduces labor, increases safety, and increases productivity.

  • Environmentally friendly design and staying power - Maintains charge for months when not in use and runs longer than Ni-Cd batteries.



18650 vs. 21700 Batteries

We explored the advantages of the Li-ion battery above, but now, let’s compare the two most popular cells. The newer 21700, developed to provide electric cars with longer mileage and more efficient battery space, compared to the older 18650 battery. When comparing these two batteries, the 21700 has a 35% higher charge capacity. The extra length and diameter of the 21700 battery also gives 47% more volume than the 18650.

The newer 21700 is superior to the much older 18650 in more ways:

  • Safer

  • Handles more current

  • Less overheating in high draw conditions; cooler-running batteries last longer

  • Has 20% extra density which means more available energy to run tools longer

  • 18650 cells range from 1.5Ah to 3.0Ah in each cell; however, 21700 cells start about 3.0Ah up to 4.0Ah.

  • 21700 offer 50%-100% power tools runtime gain

  • Improved pack cooling abilities, constructed with better materials that reduce resistance (ohms), resulting in batteries with greater power availability


Advancements in Batteries and Chargers

In the 60+ years since the introduction of the cordless power drill, battery technology has achieved incredible feats. Today, high-amp-draw power tools, like grinders, table saws, breaker hammers, even some new gasless generators, are becoming increasingly cordless.
Exploded view of Bosch Core18V Showing Coolpack Heat Management


Run Time 

Tool manufacturers are consistently innovating in response to contractors’ demand for battery solutions that increase productivity and reduce downtime by developing multiple high voltage Li-ion platforms (12V, 18V/20V, 36V, and even 48V) for power tools with higher amp-hours.

These higher voltage platforms mean more overall power, but higher amp-hours mean more overall run time. Li-ion batteries with higher amp-hour ratings deliver more performance which allows Li-ion batteries to work longer on a full charge compared to cells with lower amp-hours.

With manufacturers continually innovating cell technology and housing designs, improvements in amp-hours and how to squeeze more into compact, lightweight designs will continue and may outpace voltage innovations.

Heat Management 

As a powerful energy source, batteries generate heat. Managing that heat allows batteries to give their best performance, be more durable, safer, and longer-lasting. Heat management is a continued area of research and development not just with battery producers but also with tool manufacturers. Electronics play a major role in protecting battery packs thermally by analyzing and regulating a battery’s system.

Communicating between the tool and the battery, the electronics analyze and control numerous battery functions ranging from balancing cells to controlling voltage, the load, and acting as a fuel gauge on the packs. But electronics’ most important function is communicating between the tool and the pack to manage heat and energy flow for the best performance and durability.
Additionally, manufacturers have developed contacts on the battery pack that can withstand extreme heat. Bosch has engineered a unique heatsink built into the bottom of its battery packs with specially designed ribs that create more surface area for heat to dissipate from the battery.



Responsive-Voltage Battery Systems

The future is here with the most innovative battery systems ever imagined for the most demanding applications! Change your tools, not your battery!

Several brand name manufacturers have designed extremely powerful responsive-voltage battery/tool systems that offer a battery that automatically changes its voltage in response to changing tools. For example, keep the same battery as you switch from a 20V tool to a 60V tool; the battery’s voltage automatically responds accordingly to accommodate the voltage change.



DeWALT 9.0 Amp-Hour Flexvolt 20V_60V Lithium-Ion Battery



Metabo-HPT Multivolt 18-Volt_36-Volt Lithium-Ion Battery



DeWalt FLEXVOLT® Battery System

As the leader of the pack, DeWALT was the first to create a responsive–voltage system. Named FLEXVOLT, this patented single battery system automatically switches voltage between 20V and 60V, depending upon which tool the battery is attached to. Switch your tools, not your battery.

Boost your productivity with extended runtime when you use a FLEXVOLT 20V/60V battery with your 20V/MAX tools designed to get the hard work done. With the FLEXVOLT Battery System, heavy-duty corded power tool applications can be performed now with cordless power tools. If you’re always switching out batteries to match compatibility with tools, you need to check out FLEXVOLT.



Metabo HPT MultiVolt System

Metabo HPT’s MultiVolt battery system platform switches between 18V and 36V power tools in order to help you tackle the toughest jobs. Its core power source is a smaller 10-cell pack.

MultiVolt cordless batteries were designed with your 18V tools in mind. When a MultiVolt battery is used with an 18V Metabo tool, it generates an impressive 8.0Ah of run time. Continue using your Hitachi or Metabo HPT 18V cordless tools, including cordless nailers, and experience a longer battery life, multipurpose use, and increased flexibility, productivity, and efficiency.  

The 36V cordless lineup accepts both 2.5 Ah and 4.0 Ah MultiVolt slim pack for extreme power and runtime.

Responsive-voltage battery systems are designed to work with each brand’s exclusive wide range of interchangeable tools. Such innovative technology boosts productivity by extending runtimes and minimizing downtime.





Charge indicator on Lithium-Ion battery

Ask a White Cap salesperson about these extraordinary responsive-voltage battery systems and other innovative ways to save you time and money.



Charging Time & Capacity 

Just like Li-ion batteries have replaced outdated Ni-Cd batteries, Li-ion chargers are updated with:

  • Faster charging speeds, up to 40% faster than standard chargers.

  • Microchip technology to prevent overcharging and overheating.

  • The capacity to charge up to 8 batteries simultaneously in multiple ports.

  • Backwards-compatibility.

  • Wireless charging stations.

  • Special built-in fans that circulate air through the pack to reduce cooling time before actually charging; important with newer battery cell integration because it allows better use of the cells, higher torque and speed in your power tools plus faster charging.

  • Fast-charging USB ports so you can charge your phone or tablet while charging your power tools. 


The Future of Power Tool Batteries

With the rapidly growing popularity of inventive tool designs such as voltage responsive tool systems, and practical applications for Li-ion batteries, eco-friendly electric vehicles, and the Japanese development of a sodium-ion powered battery, it seems highly likely that these industries will continue to innovate, inspire, and increase.   

As the technology develops and manufacturing gears up, costs will decrease, and we will continue to be amazed with what was once thought impossible.