A couple of years ago we went on a rant Future of Cordless Power Tools, 5.0Ah and Beyond where we predicted a bunch of cordless power tools we’d hope to see in the next couple years and whamo they almost all came true. Cordless SDS-Max hammer, cordless table saw, cordless trim router, cordless miter saws (full size), cordless HEPA vacs, battery to AC power inverters and more are all available at your local tool store today (or very very soon). Clearly we’re not psychic it’s pretty systematic as battery technology improves it’s logical all the next most popular, higher voltage tools will go cordless. So what might be coming next?
We just did a post about some of the new battery cell technology (18650 vs 20700) and how that plays into power tools with LiHD vs FlexVolt vs M18 and others, it got us think again. It seems like if we look 2, 3, 4 more years ahead, assuming the Tesla Giga-Factory continues to comes on line we should expect even bigger leaps forward and lower priced battery packs. We should expect cell improvements to continue on the 20700 standard, the typical 18v battery pack (10 cells) will hopefully be at least 8.0Ah capacity, larger packs 12.0Ah (15 cells), stack multiple packs and you’re talking serious juice, the possibilities are wide open.
The limitations on AC power from a standard wall outlet are actually much more restrictive than what is possible with lithium batteries. Very soon we will look at corded power tools as the weaker option to battery, similarly to how we might compare a corded mower to a gas mower. We fully expect battery power to outperform gas tools as well in the near future. We’ll bet people will happily give up their Stihl gas saw once a battery power catches up/passes (perhaps for a Stihl battery version), if a Tesla sedan can go 0-60 in 2.4 seconds we are confident they can make a battery saw using the same technology. Between higher voltage platforms, multiple battery platforms and variable voltage batteries (like DeWalt’s new FlexVolt) we are now seeing the possibility of 20-30+ amp battery powered tools in sight which could easily replace most corded and gas tools.
Cordless Jack Hammers
When we did the first Future of Power Tools we thought we would see a cordless SDS-Max but had also thought it would probably be weak underpowered unit. The M18 FUEL SDS-Max 2717-21HD ($649) is every bit as powerful as their corded counterpart, somewhere in the 11-13 amp equitant and excellent runtime with the included 9.0Ah battery. The problem with electric jack hammers like the Makita AVT HM1812 ($1849) is simply corded power, first you have to run a long extension cord, then find an outlet that won’t trip every 5 minutes, finally with a cord there is a limit on amperage of 15 amps. If you could make a battery version with power of an equivalent 25+ amps machine all the sudden you are outperforming air powered breakers but without all the hassle of a diesel pull behind air compressor!
Cordless Table Saws
I know we now have the Dewalt FlexVolt 8” cordless table saw which is a good first crack and it does offer solid performance for ripping plywood and other materials. Again, let’s look past comparing to corded, electric table saws on 110v are basically just 7-1/4” circular saws flipped over and geared differently because they are limited to 15 amps, they’ve never had enough power. Metabo already hinted they’ve got a 36V table saw coming based off that 9” cordless grinder motor (21 amp equivalent power) which should have more power than any other electric jobsite saw on the market. What we’d really like to see is a new 10” cordless table saw also have flesh detecting technology built-in, unfortunately of the two current players in that tech, Bosch doesn’t seem very aggressive on the cordless tool development side and SawStop doesn’t seem to want to play nice with other cordless tool brands so this might be a dream for down the road a little longer.
Cordless Concrete Cutting, Grinding & Drilling Systems
With the new OSHA silica dust regulations there really needs to be a complete rethinking of how we work with concrete. It’s great to make a cordless grinder with a dust shroud but if you’ve got to attach it by hose to a vac that has to plug in we aren’t really accomplishing much. With 25 cfm required for every inch of cutting or grinding we need 125 cfm of suction as a cordless vac to meet the requirement with any 5” wheels. Makita has released a cordless HEPA backpack vac XCV05Z and cordless HEPA roller vac XCV04Z great for general clean up however these units don’t yet meet the OSHA specs when using a 5” wheel. A cordless 125+ cfm HEPA backpack would be a great start but how do we go past that? Who is going to make an all-in-1 unit for concrete grinding that collects the dust to meet OSHA requirements?
Who will make a cordless 14” concrete cutter or a cordless core drill system that can handle 4″, 6”, 8”+ coring? Something with a self-contained slurry system that uses water to fight silica dust (350 cfm required for a dry 14″ cut is not likely) that can all be done on battery power! We don’t know how to do that but that’s why those product managers make the big bucks, whomever figures it out first is going to clean up, literally and figuratively!
Cordless Small Engines
The Dewalt, Milwaukee, Makitas of the world can’t reinvent every tool fast enough to meet the changing demands of a cordless jobsite. As Tesla went from powering cars and quickly learned their knowledge could also be used to power houses. The tools companies are in prime position to leverage their battery platforms and brushless motors to power way more than just drills and saws. They need to think more like Honda and Briggs and Stratton who make some of their own products but also make the power plants for many others. They need to build a line of different sized battery powered motors which simply have an output shaft. The Honda small engines like the GX25 or GXH50 or GX120 are used all over the place for a huge range of applications.
That way other manufacturers can simply buy their cordless power unit motors and figure out how to engineer it to work with their equipment, water pumps or air compressors or concrete mixers or hydraulic powered equipment or trowels or jumping jacks or go-carts or wheel chairs or pipe benders or electric hoists or pressure washer or whatever people use small engines to power currently. Cordless power units would have many advantages over gas, can be used indoors or out, won’t require gallons of gasoline on hand and overall much safer option for the jobsite. Also creating a huge demand for millions more of their batteries.
AC Power & Solar Powered Charging
In our previous 2014 post we had said we would see AC power from a battery platform and it looks like Dewalt is going to be the first to deliver with their DCB1800B Power Station ($399). This is an awesome solution for emergency power in a blackouts, power for a tailgate, camping and of course great for the jobsite when power isn’t available. You will need to connect to AC at the end of the day to get the batteries filled again of course. It is a great start, makes charging batteries more convenient and may replace some Honda EU2000i Generators ($999). Again we need to think bigger, taking a look at why Tesla wants to put a battery-wall in your garage and you realize the hope is really to change how we use electricity. If lithium battery power can store more energy, power larger equipment and become much cheaper these tool brands are in an incredible position to go well beyond just power tools. These “tool” battery packs could easily become the mobile power currency of the future.
Why only 4 battery slots why not 6, 8, 12 slots that’ll work as long as 4 batteries are in but can power much more? We often think of solar power as permanent fixtures that need to be anchored to our house but they can be the most mobile power option available. As Solar Power continues to become more efficient, use that by including MC4 connector and controllers into these power stations to make it idiot proof to recharge the batteries from any solar panels anywhere. A work van with a couple Goal Zero Boulder 90 Solar Panels ($499) mounted on the roof could easily power all your batteries indefinitely right now. Pop up solar panels could recharge your batteries on a remote jobsite. Off grid living could center on one of these power stations and battery packs that are… yellow, red, teal, blue, green?
Is there any reason we need to limit tools (and thinking) with 1 or 2 battery packs? Why not 4 batteries on a tool, what could we power then? If we get a couple more years down the road and battery power isn’t the clear choice (power, convenience, cost and safety) over AC corded electric and gas motors on big jobsites we will be truly shocked. It’s a very interesting time with lithium battery technology and things are changing very quickly. Those sitting on the sidelines thinking this whole cordless fade is going to pass (like the internet will) are going to get left in the dark. Those with some foresight about how cordless batteries are going to change may be able to do amazing things well outside our little corner of the tool world. Can’t wait to see what we’ll be talking about in a couple more years for the Future of Power Tools, 15.0Ah and Beyond.