I have been thinking about the growing complexity in the cordless power tool industry. A couple of years ago, 18V vs. 20V Max (they’re really the same thing) was the biggest source of confusion. Now? There’s a lot more to it.
For the sake of this post, we’ll only be looking at 5 brands – Bosch, Dewalt, Makita, Metabo HPT, and Milwaukee.
Bosch has been emphasizing their next-gen Core18V batteries, which are basically larger form-factor and higher capacity battery packs.
There are also a couple of Bosch “BiTurbo” tools that only achieve peak power when paired with a Core18V 8.0Ah to 12.0Ah battery.
A couple of months ago, I wondered about the types of new tools Bosch’s 12.0Ah battery might power, but haven’t seen any progress yet.
I tested one of the first Bosch tools designed around the Core18V battery, a reciprocating saw, and it provided very respectable performance, but it was paired with a compact 5-cell battery. We haven’t experienced any Bosch 18V or Core18V tools since then (not for lack of trying), and so I can’t comment about their quality or performance.
Bosch’s 18V system is fairly easy to decipher. Standard 18V batteries, compact or high capacity, for most of their tools, Core18V 4.0Ah for when you want longer runtime in a smaller package, and 8.0Ah and 12.0Ah for their highest-performing tools.
Dewalt 20V Max & FlexVolt
Dewalt FlexVolt is a little more complicated, but not really.
You have Dewalt 20V Max cordless power tools, and 60V Max FlexVolt. The FlexVolt batteries operate at 20V Max or 60V Max, depending on the tool. You can charge the batteries on any of Dewalt’s 20V Max chargers.
No, you can’t use 20V Max batteries in Dewalt FlexVolt tools, but it’s pretty straightforward.
Dewalt 20V Max batteries in 20V Max tools, FlexVolt batteries in 20V Max or FlexVolt tools. With this, you get longer runtime in the 20V Max tools, or high power and performance from FlexVolt tools.
The one-way battery compatibility makes sense.
See More on: Dewalt 20V Max Tools || FlexVolt Power Tools
Makita 18V, 18VX2, XGT 40V Max
Makita has their 18V cordless power tool lineup, and in recent years they’ve been expanding their selection of 18VX2 tools.
While not always ideal – 18VX2 tools tended to be a little bulky – Makita provided an easy and fairly simple way to squeeze added power, performance, and runtime from the same Li-ion batteries that power their 18V tools.
Makita has been very tight-lipped about the new XGT cordless power tool system, but from what we know so far, it’s incompatible with their 18V system. There’s an optional charging adapter that will allow 18V batteries to be charged on the XGT adapter.
So, there are 18V tools, 18VX2 tools, and the new 40V Max XGT system.
On social media, someone asked Makita when there will be 18V LXT batteries with higher capacities and next-gen Li-ion cells (21700).
Makita USA replied:
A higher amp-hour 18V battery will not get to the next level of cordless solutions for higher demand applications.
This could suggest that Makita doesn’t plan on releasing next-gen compact 4.0Ah or 8.0Ah LXT battery packs to the 18V system, which is disappointing.
The XGT system kind of makes sense, but not really. An 18V 5.0Ah battery and a 40V Max 2.5Ah battery have the same number of cells – can the XGT system really deliver “the next level of cordless solutions for higher demand applications?”
Makita will also be releasing an XGT battery that follows other brands into larger form factor cell Li-ion battery territory. The 40V Max battery requires 10 cells, which would allow for 4.0Ah charge capacity (when built with the same cells as 18V 8.0Ah batteries).
But, let’s say users demand even greater runtime. That would necessitate an XGT X2 system, or 20-cell batteries, and it doesn’t seem like this will save any size or space compared to 18VX2 tools.
Makita’s XGT system confuses me, and it’ll be months before we learn more. Makita USA has a history of declining to comment about long-term new tool release, and so it’ll be “late 2020” until any details or insights are available.
Aside from the 40V Max to 18V charging adapter, there looks to be zero compatibility between 18V LXT and 40V Max XGT systems.
Metabo HPT 18V and MultiVolt
Metabo HPT (formerly Hitachi) has their 18V line, and new MultiVolt 36V/18V line.
Similar to the relationship between Dewalt’s 20V Max and FlexVolt system, Metabo HPT’s MultiVolt batteries are compatible with their new 36V tools and also their existing 18V tools. 18V batteries won’t work in the 36V tools.
Milwaukee’s M18 system is straightforward.
- 3.0Ah – High Output
Extended Capacity (XC)
- 6.0Ah – High Output
- 8.0Ah – High Output
High Demand (HD)
- 12.0Ah – High Output
Basically, you go with the compact battery for light duty tools, XC batteries for heavier duty tools, and HD batteries for highest power tools. The compact High Output battery can be used in lieu of the XC tools for all of the core tools, and the XC High Output battery in some of the heaviest duty tools in place of the HD 9.0Ah battery. The 12.0Ah battery provides the highest power and longest runtime.
There’s a little more to keep track of, but every M18 battery fits in every tool. No, a standard XC battery isn’t the best pairing for tools optimized for the HD battery, but it’ll work. I had no trouble using an M18 5.0Ah battery with Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel cordless table saw, but HD and High Output batteries are the better choice for more taxing cuts.
Milwaukee also has their new MX FUEL cordless power equipment system, which are an entirely different class of tools that 18V tech simply cannot power.
Apples vs. Oranges
Comparing the different cordless power tool systems is getting more complicated.
It appears that Bosch and Milwaukee are following similar paths for their 18V systems. On one hand, users have to properly match the battery to the tool and application, but on the other hand, you have full system compatibility.
Dewalt and Metabo HPT are following similar paths, where you have higher-powered tools that require higher-voltage batteries. The batteries are one-way cross-compatible with 18V tools.
Neither approach is really better than the other, they’re just different.
Then you have Makita, with their 18V and 18VX2 tools, and now 40V Max XGT. The incompatibility between 18V and 40V Max tools and batteries is a downside, but maybe Makita can do something about this, there’s still time. Except for the optional charging adapter, XGT might be treated as a completely separate system.
Dewalt FlexVolt vs. Milwaukee M18 has been an interesting comparison, but also a difficult one, and things will only get more complex as different brands take different approaches towards higher performance “cordless jobsite” solutions.
The “more volts are better” argument doesn’t really apply anymore, with brands – Milwaukee especially – going to great lengths to squeeze as much as they can from 18V systems. Dewalt recently refreshed some of their FlexVolt cordless power tools, and I can’t help but wonder if this was compelled by competitive performance.
Which approach to higher performance tools do you prefer or find most appealing?
If you haven’t upgraded yet, or would make different decisions, would you go with an “everything fits” system, a dual-voltage system with one-way compatibility, or two separate systems?