I was thinking ahead as to what’s coming in 2021, and what has happened so far, and this is going to be a BIG year for cordless power tools.
In previous years, most cordless developments involved brands’ expanding their offerings both outwards, with new models, and upwards with new higher powered solutions.
Battery tech innovations mostly involved adding more cells to battery packs, or increasing the size of the cells. And before that, progress involved cells with increasingly greater charge capacity.
So let’s take a look at what happened this year so far.
Ryobi announced an expanded lineup of 18V One+HP cordless tools, with a focus on compact sizing and brushless motors.
Flex is coming out with a new 24V max cordless power tool system, with a focus on Pro-level offerings, brushless motors, and competitor-squashing power.
Bosch Profactor tools promise to deliver next-gen power when paired with their 8Ah and Profactor-exclusive 12Ah battery. We haven’t seen any of these tools yet.
Harbor Freight is expanding their Hercules brushless tool offerings.
Dewalt is expanding their 12V Max Xtreme Subcompact cordless lineup. This isn’t big news given everything else that’s happening in the industry, but it’s still good to know.
Makita is launching a new 36V/40V Max cordless system – XGT. XGT has launched in most parts of the world already, and will likely be coming to the USA at some point in 2021. So far, we know this will Makita’s new “higher power” system, and it won’t be backwards-compatible with their 18V platform.
Ridgid has expanded their 18V cordless platform with new brushless power tools. They look to have shifted their focus with a new emphasis on user comfort, ergonomics, and convenience.
ALL THIS and we’re just 3 months into 2021.
What has Craftsman been up to? They’ve been awfully quiet – I wonder if we’ll see any Craftsman cordless power tool developments this year.
Dewalt and Milwaukee have been steadily expanding their 18V/20V Max cordless power tool systems. But, my gut feeling says that Milwaukee is due for some big news. I predicted there will be new subcompact cordless drills and impact drivers, but there could certainly be different surprise developments.
What’s most surprising about a lot of these developments is that the focus isn’t entirely on more power as in previous years. Bosch Profactor and Makita XGT systems do focus on power, but they’re also playing catch-up to Dewalt and Milwaukee Tool developments.
The increasing focus on user comfort and convenience, with smaller and lighter tools, is definitely welcome.
With brushless motor technology being democratized these days, and present in all major consumer and professional cordless power tool systems, we can count on seeing the continued decline of brushed motor options.
2021 has been a big year with respect to cordless power tool tech so far, and it seems that further updates and advancements are on the way.
Are there any cordless developments you’d be eager to see happen this year?
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Check out the caged motors in some of the tools Snapon assembles (the ones that are obviously not Bosch or Metabo designs). Eventually one of the big three will start pushing this. The result will mimic cell phones. We’ve made the tools as small as possible, and now it will be hip to make them as big as possible so that the back bearing doesn’t wear out the the glass reinforced plastic housing…after three lifetimes of the bearing. 😂
I have the feeling Makita’s 40v platform either is either going to completely tank in the US or will be vaporware. I’m just not seeing the demand when their LXT lineup is so prevalent and they have the 18Vx2 setup. At the very least they should have made a similar setup to Metabo HPT to ensure some form of backwards-compatibility. As it stands they’ve essentially abandoned their 12v line. Why not just keep everything streamlined?
I also think Skil quietly had an excellent year. Both their 20v and especially 12v lineups have expanded considerably despite flying under the radar compared to the more distributed brands. For US buyers Skil might be the most diverse 12v platform after Milwaukee, and it only took a couple years for them to get there.
I live in England, and I’ve seen the Makita XGT 40 V tools, and they look good they will be much better than the 18V tools, more expensive yes but a lot more power, there’s a 8 1/2 inch miter saw 40 v it looks really good and a circular saw, much better than having 18V x2 i think they will bring out 80V x2 tools as well, I think it’s better the Dewalt flexvolt.
Some tools just don’t cut it with 18volt. One example is a 5” grinder on 40volts (really 36) is going to be very useful.
My Milwaukee grinders work well for me on 18v, even the 9″, although I don’t use that one often. They’re used for general fabrication tasks, weld prep.
philip s john
Sorry. I disagree. Only way Milwaukee HO works is hear and there. Cant take heat or constant use. Most likely new line I works to fit between m18 and mx
I’ve seen a lot of skil 20v and 12v on woot and other clearances… I think they made a bunch of noise and then fizzled. Interesting that it looked different to you, makes me interested in if there is data available.
I can’t speak to sales, although I think a lot of the promotions (such as Amazon) speak to increasing market share. Certainly, Chervon’s sales on cordless tools must be solid enough to warrant their wide-ranging push into the upcoming FLEX line. Rather, I was more referring to the broad range of their Skil 12v lineup, in a voltage line where most companies just release the token drill/impact/OMT and then fade away into obscurity. Releasing the second most diverse selection in any category in the span of 2 years tells me they must be doing something right.
I have purchased almost all of Skil’s PWRCore 12 tools. All of them ( with the exception of the circular saw ) easily reach into pro level performance. They really are priced well. If you check Amazon OFTEN, you can get a mighty fine price. I still have Milwaukee M12/M18, as well as Craftsman V20 for my family. If the circular saw was a tad sturdier, I could easily ditch the other red tools. I wish Chervon well, and am excited to see the Flex rollout.
Could you expand on the skil 12v circular saw? That is one I’m interested in. Thanks!
It’s a fine saw. The shoe is stamped steel, as opposed to magnesium or aluminum. Some have complained about the adjustment knobs on the shoe. Power wise, it’s actually a fine tool. It’s lightweight and maneuverable. What I actually was illustrating was that these tools are just as valuable to me as my M12 tools. They have reviewed as being right up there with pro tools in most cases. However, I have the M12 Fuel circular saw. The M12 circular saw is a beast, and as such, it is hard to beat.
I don’t believe they’re planning on the XGT line immediately taking the US by storm. They have the money and resources to sell it alongside the 18v for years to come. If you look outside the US, they were already supporting multiple battery platforms with new tools before adding XGT to the mix. It’s there if you want it, but surely they know that outside of the grinder, the compelling products haven’t been unveiled as of yet. I reckon they’ll have the x2 XGT OPE stuff eventually. Right now, they have a basic mix of proper 36v tools and tools that are simply compatible with the same battery. But, they’re competing with their own 18v line that has just about everything you could possibly need (and if not, then Milwuakee probably has everything you can possibly need). I have to imagine most won’t buy into it until their hand gets forced (80v tools for sure). Once someone finds themselves having to buy an XGT product, that’s when the other products may or may not get purchased. I think they’re looking at the long game.
philip s john
Well makita has done a 180… originally they did what u said…. stick to 2×18. Now 40v is here playing catch up to flexvolt.
Acme had all of Makita’s XGT stuff listed on their website for a very short time earlier this week, I happened to be looking in the what’s new for Makita to find the cordless file, and there were 2 pages I think of XGT listings. So hopefully they’re getting set up to be released and start shipping…!
I’m presuming April
Makita’s 40v platform might not be backwards- compatible with 18v. There may be a charging setup where you can charge the 18v battery from the 40v(40v used as a nurse tank for power). Use the 40 v in your compatible tools, then use it to recharge your 18v in remote areas.
There will only be an optional adapter where you can use the XGT charger with LXT batteries.
What I was happy to see – and hope it starts a trend – is an Independent manufacturer (Reed Plumbing Tools in this case) offering a power tool with adapter plates to accommodate 18V batteries from Bosch, Dewalt, Makita and Milwaukee. The only odd bit is that they chose Bosch for their standard plate – while the IMO more poular battery options require you to buy a separate plate.
Bosch has copied Metabo’s Cordless Alliance System program with a similar program and probably offered them aggressive pricing incentives compared to other brands.
Too bad that ITW did not choose to follow this pattern with their Senco and Paslode cordless tools. I’m not even sure if there is any battery compatibility between those 2 brands. Other than the brand specific battery platform the new Senco nailer (and some of their others) would seem very appealing based on its paper specs:
Klein’s power tools take DeWalt batteries.
The Graco cordless sprayers (3 models) also use Dewalt batteries:
Surebonder makes adapters for their Ryobi-native glue gun to run from Milwaukee, Makita, and DeWalt batteries.
I, too, hope this becomes a bona fide trend.
I would love to see some 40v/56v versions of the tools that’re stretching the 18v platform. Specifically, angle grinders and vacuum cleaners.
Ryobi’s 40v OPE platform in particular, seems quite natural to power an upgraded utility vac. I’m worried they might avoid this for market confusion reasons though — the 40v platform has been so _exclusively_ OPE, perhaps so it doesn’t tread on the One+ promise of “one battery, every tool”? Suddenly you’d have 2 batteries, different tools. I promise we can figure it out, Ryobi, but maybe “we” aren’t the target of that promise.
EGO would do well to offer a general-purpose shop vac, since their 56v platform has power to spare, and folks who already mow their lawns with those batteries would happily vacuum their cars with ’em too. That’s an obvious market entry, then they’d also end up selling units to tool users who’ve found their 18v vacs anemic.
Also I wish someone would make a hybrid gen-set combining a few of those large packs with an auto-start dual-fuel engine. Inverter gennys are great because they can throttle back when load is low, so the next step is being able to stop the ICE completely and run from battery, then spin it back up when load calls for it. The trick would be making sure someone doesn’t bring it indoors while the engine is off, and then it starts itself and monoxides everyone to death. (Hint, manufacturers: Try an infrared thermopile taking the temperature of the sky. If it’s indoors, the ceiling looks very different.)
Koko The Talking Ape
I agree re 40/56v vacuums. 18v vacuums are weak tea.
A hybrid generator is an interesting idea. If the ICE engine ran a generator that charged batteries, then the ICE engine could run in Atkinson cycle for greatest efficiency. That’s what the Prius engine does.
But batteries that could provide substantial capacity would be heavy and expensive. They are best for taking up the slack when the load is variable, as you say. But I don’t know how variable the load is that most generators will have to deal with. If the load can “coast” (as in the case of refrigerators retaining their coldth for a while), then the generators could just shut themselves off, and restart when needed. Some cars have auto-restart on their engines that is incredibly fast.
That’s exactly what I was thinking; I drive a Prius and I wish that tech was in everything.
When my whole house load drops to “a cable modem and a laptop”, there’s no reason for the engine to be spinning, but I don’t want to run outside and stop it. When the fridge or furnace decides it needs to run, it’d be sweet if the engine could start itself, recharge the battery in the meantime, then shut down when the load drops again. Go back to holding up my desk lamp on battery.
The nice thing is the furnace starts with the draft-inducer blower first, and then the igniter, so there’s some “warning” before the main blower comes on. A hybrid powertrain would have plenty of opportunity to get the inertia spinning before the motor surge hits.
And bonus, those same 40v/56v OPE packs are what I need to run my chainsaw to clear the debris from the storm that knocked out the power in the first place. It’s a win/win/win. And at other times, uncouple the battery/inverter portion from the engine/gastank portion and carry it indoors at a jobsite…
Forgive my humble request here… I don’t know if it quite counts in the power tool range, but I would certainly like to see it.
Some kept promises for the DeWALT Wall/Radar scanner in the 12 Volt line. In fact, across the board, I’d like to see Detection and Scanning equipment both available, and lower in cost, so that the barrier to entry is not so restrictive.
Flir and Fluke have some amazing models, and I certainly believe they are worth the price they are at. That said, it would be nice if they released editions of some of their higher end models for the significantly budget-crippled folks who need such things, but can’t afford to buy them before getting the job that would pay for them.
Flir has a beautiful set of Mobile-Add-On cameras, and in all honesty I would love to see a set of those in the sub-$100 range, rather than the $500 range they currently are. Fluke, also, has some really full-featured Multimeters that I wish were closer to $200 rather than $1000.
And if we’re talking Power Tools directly… I genuinely want the DeWALT 8V Max system back. Glue Gun and Soldering Iron definitely, Angle-Head Pocket Flashlight or Gooseneck Light on the Maybe side. Maybe an RFID or Barcode/QR tracker/Tagger device that allows you to track people, tools, and other equipment in real time while connected to a mobile device? Not as a security or billing feature, but in case of emergency. Construction collapses, can’t tell who you’ve got missing, you start pulling people out and scanning them with this little device for quick ID.
More powerful, and sturdily built, Dremel Moto-Saw Scroll/Coping Saw, using thicker blades, in new materials, and more powerful accessories for the device itself. Literally powered, like a light on the platform, maybe an active angle finder instead of a protractor/straight edge slider. And if we’re lucky… and I mean Very Lucky…. a 12 Volt Max cordless Moto-Saw.
I know I’m asking a lot of the industry, but… It’s not a demand. Just what I wish i could see come into existence some time before my body gives out on me, and I can no longer use tools anymore. In fact, the expansion of my tools may get me healthier, as it would give my body more to do as a whole, instead of weaken.
I’d like to see more mechanics tools on market. LIke a dewalt cordless ratchet. OH wait there’s a craftsman one now. so where is the yellow one.
Milwaukee has a number of automotive style cordless tools – it’d be nice to see Dewalt, Bosch, and Makita or Metabo have them too.
And while not a power tool – since you mentioned craftsman – when is there US made handtool like coming. It was hinted at in 2019 if I recall.
Oooh… That’s a good one, Nathan! The promise of a restoration of, or at least an Attempt, to bring a full-fledged Craftsman factory in North America to life was one of those things that was hinted at Pre-Covid! I can understand 2020 being, effectively, a write-off for most of the industry. 2021 appears to be a slow roll-out of vaccines to at least start the recovery process…
Basing this on a very optimistic pattern? I think it’s safe to say first quarter of 2023 will definitely involve a return to that Bob Vila Craftsman Garage style Craftsman hand tool production. At the very least, the first round, with crescent wrenches and the giant rolling steel tool drawer sets on the market by then. Bare minimum of those. Sockets and Impact-Ready gear, Geared-Wrenches and Box Wrenches probably soon after that by Q3/4… After that… I think the sky will literally become the limit to bringing Craftsman back.
Covid caused a hiccup in everyone’s plans. I think this is a sensible timeline for the rollout of what they promised in 2019. But, this now being an SBD company… Expect at least some push-back away from the old Craftsman we want. They released the Versastack system… They may pull a fast one on us all and release more of that system instead of the Garage full of Metal Cabinetry that we used to know from Bob Vila.
Little disclaimer… I’m not mocking you, or being sarcastic. This is the most optimistic take I can think of for what Covid has done to slow down everyone’s plans. And, if the world keeps going the way it has been, expect me to be extremely wrong on my estimation. Possibly as bad as by 5 years. But, I’m trying for optimism in my post here. You brought up a really, really interesting point about that fall 2019 period when we were just hearing about Covid existing. A lot of tool companies made a lot of promises. Thank you for bringing this one forward! I look forward to reading more input on this one!
This may just be wishful thinking on my part, but Milwaukee seems due for some new additions to the OPE lineup. Although other than lawnmower (which I’m not personally interested in) I admittedly don’t know what that would be. I’ve got the modular head (Flex-Lock?) with the pole saw, string trimmer and edger, and also the v2 blower, and they are all solid. With that kind of apparent success it seems ripe to expand that area.
SBD should have bought the Western Forge plant instead of making the crap China WF look alike screwdrivers. Also didn’t WF make pliers and adjustable (crescent) wrenches. So sad.
philip s john
This is what Milwaukee needs to do… a mower and maybe more with 2x 18 platform.
Then a new line at 40v. Make this new 40v bat be abled to split internally like multi volt. Then the bat can down adapt to m18. ..Possibly m18 at 8 amph and then 4 at 40v.
Now build a robust adapter for mx tools thats 80v. The adapter would take the new 40v bat x2. That would now be 80v at the 2amph. Ideally the adapter could come with any new mx tools or buy separately for current mx tool. This would sit right between mx 1 and 3 amp bats.
Not sure if my math is correct In all this… but it is achievable… its really just a matter of what size amph to use.