We are about 10 days away from Milwaukee’s 2018 new tool media event, NPS18. They sent over this teaser earlier this month, announcing that the next M18 breakthrough is coming.
Can you guess what it is?
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Almost a year ago, after we came back from NPS17, I talked about Milwaukee’s next-gen battery technology, at least as much as we knew.
Today, professional cordless power tool brands have taken 3 paths towards higher performance.
1) Higher Voltage Tools
Dewalt stepped up to 60V Max and 36V Max tool platforms, powered by a 20V Max-compatible FlexVolt battery pack.
Bosch announced new 36V tools somewhat recently.
2) Multiple Battery Packs
Makita’s 18V X2 line of tools use (2) 18V battery packs to achieve 36V power. Festool has an 18V/18V x 2 cordless circular saw. Dewalt has a 20V Max x 2 mower.
Other brands have utilized 2x battery packs before.
3) Larger Battery Cells
Many brands have come out with higher capacity and higher performing battery packs built with larger Li-ion battery cells, in 20700 and 21700 sizes.
Stepping up to one of these newer batteries won’t provide universal benefits, however, since they’re larger and a little heavier than the current breeds of 18650-based battery packs.
What to Ask?
I figure that option (3) is pretty much guaranteed. But will there be any notable tool incompatibilities?
Just going with 21700-based battery packs is not going to be enough.
Let’s say that Milwaukee comes out with new M18 battery packs in compact, XC, and HD sizes, with 5, 10, and 15 cell configurations that provide 4.0Ah, 8.0Ah, and 12.0Ah capacities. So what? Other brands might offer the same in a short time. Battery makers will be perfectly happy selling the same Li-ion cells to other brands.
What else could Milwaukee do to remain competitive and possibly even lead the market?
Larger jobsite tools could either feature a higher battery voltage, or they can be designed to fit 2 (or more?) M18 battery packs.
How can Milwaukee power a 10″ portable table saw, 12″ sliding miter saw, or other high-powered tool that users want?
Milwaukee has touted their M18 compatibility history, and how M18 tools, battery packs, and chargers will simply work together.
Dewalt came out with an innovative backwards-compatible FlexVolt battery pack. Although FlexVolt tools are not backwards-compatible with 20V Max battery packs, 20V Max tools can fit the FlexVolt battery.
Hitachi MultiVolt batteries will fit 18V or 36V tools, although the 36V tools will only fit MultiVolt battery packs.
While I think the FlexVolt and MultiVolt systems are great ways to go for higher-power tools, and perhaps better compared to multi-battery interfaces, I don’t see Milwaukee going in that direction.
Milwaukee is very much about compatibility. Would they create a new higher-voltage system that requires a non-M18 battery pack? I don’t think so.
That leaves the option of a multi-battery interface, where 2 (or more) M18 packs are used to create higher voltage levels of power. With such a system, users would be able to power a tool using (2) M18 battery packs. Those same M18 battery packs could also be used for other M18 single-battery tools.
The new line of tools would likely have a new sub-brand, similar to how Milwaukee M18 Fuel tools are their premium brushless offerings.
Why must they offer even higher-powered tools?
Because users want them. They want cordless table saws that can run a full-sized blade, high capacity miter saws that can use a 12″ blade. Bigger cordless HEPA-rated vacuums. Cordless air compressors. Cordless lawn mowers. Powered carts. Snowblowers.
Milwaukee needs to take things up another step. Even if they don’t want to, they need to, to be competitive.
Milwaukee’s M12 lineup is broad, with lots of useful tools. Other brands are eclipsing Milwaukee a little bit, with high-powered cordless offerings that they cannot currently compete with. Of course Milwaukee has their own unique and compelling M18 offerings. But if they can’t match up what other brands are offering, they’ll stand to lose a fair number of potential users, maybe even current users.
What happens if you’re a Milwaukee M18 user and you want a cordless air compressor? More than want one, you need one, for more convenient trim work? You look longingly at Dewalt FlexVolt and Ridgid 18V platforms, and you either wish and hope for Milwaukee to come out with one, or you buy into another platform.
Even if one buys into another platform and works with two different battery systems, that user now has two purchasing options when they need a new tool. If you only have M18 batteries and chargers, you only look at M18 offerings. If you have M18 batteries and chargers, and also another brand’s, you now have two options for buying new cordless power tools.
In order for Milwaukee to remain competitive, and to continue offering new solutions that their users could benefit from, they have to step up to a higher voltage system.
They *could* just come out with a “super duty” battery pack with say 20 or 25 cells, for 16Ah or 20Ah capacities, given a recent industry tip I received about the move to 4.0Ah cells. But that’s going to cause all kinds of engineering and shipping headaches.
When it comes to higher powered tools, it becomes far easier to increase voltage to get greater wattage, than to increase the current.
So, I think that we’re going to see a new Milwaukee M18 multi-battery interface, and new 21700-based battery packs.
I would think we’ll see at least some of these new tool possibilities:
- M18x2 12″ sliding miter saw
- M18x2 10″ table saw
- M18x2 HEPA dust extractor
- M18x2 cordless mower
- M18x2 cordless air compressor
I think that these tools would all be candidates to be kitted with 8.0Ah XC or 12.0Ah HD battery packs.
We’re also likely to see new tool storage products, new hand tools (perhaps new 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ ratchets?), and maybe even a Packout tool box expansion.