Cordless Tools Get a Boost
Tool makers pursue lithium-ion battery technology for next-generation tools
I’ve got one word for you: lithium ion. Okay, technically that’s two, but if you’re a cordless power-tool user it’s the technology that counts.
Black & Decker Corp. announced this month that it plans to launch a line of 36-volt cordless tools next year under the DeWalt brand that run on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The new tools were developed in tandem with Massachusetts battery maker A123 Systems Inc.
Commonly used for powering cell phones and laptops, lithium-ion batteries are said to run longer, charge faster, and weigh less than the traditional cordless-tool batteries. That’s good news for anyone who carries around a cordless tool all day or reaches for one in the shop only to find it out of juice.
“We expect that our technology will have the same impact… as the introduction of first generation lithium-ion technology… in the 1990s,” David Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems Inc., said in a statement.
The announcement is just the latest sign of improvement in the cordless-tool market. In March, Milwaukee introduced a line of 28-volt cordless tools that run on lithium-ion batteries. One of the tools in that suite is a portable battery-powered bandsaw designed mainly for the building and plumbing trades, an accomplishment made possible by the new technology. Milwaukee claims that the new batteries deliver almost twice as much power and run time as its traditional 18-volt batteries, and weigh less.
Makita also recently introduced its LXT line of lithium-ion-powered cordless tools, with similar fanfare. And Bosch is expected to follow suit next year.
Apparently, consumers are responding well to the battery upgrade. Home Depot reported $20 billion in sales in its fiscal third quarter report on Tuesday, a $2 billion increase compared to the same quarter last year. In a press release the company cited the “introduction of new … Makita and Milwaukee lithium-ion tools” as one reason for its prosperous quarter.
In addition to an increase in battery power, the next generation of cordless tools also carry an increase in price. For example, Milwaukee’s 28-volt hammer drill cost twice as much as its 18-volt model.
Consumers can expect to get their first glimpse of DeWalt’s 36-volt line in January, when the tools are unveiled at the International Builder’s Show in Orlando, Florida.
November 16, 2005