Now that some manufactures – Metabo, Dewalt, and Hitachi – have announced new higher capacity 4.0Ah battery packs, it should only be a matter of time before higher capacity compact batteries hit the market.
2.0Ah 12V and 18v Battery Packs
As you might already know, Ah refers to the amp-hour rating of a battery. 1.5Ah means that a battery pack can deliver a steady 1.5 amps of current for one hour. A tool that draws 0.75A from a 1.5Ah pack will have two hours of runtime, and one with a 3.0A draw will last for half an hour. Of course this is all under ideal conditions. The more amp-hours a rechargeable battery can deliver, the better.
A typical 18V lithium ion battery pack will be built with five smaller 3.6V battery cells; 3.6V x 5=18V. A typical 10.8V – excuse me, “12V Max” – pack will consist of three cells, which explains the tri-lobe design of many brands’ 12V packs.
Most brands do not use larger cells in their extended capacity battery packs, they just use more cells in parallel. You probably already know this too, but if you connect two batteries in series you double the voltage, and two batteries in parallel doubles the capacity/runtime.
Any given brand’s 3.0Ah battery packs will likely have double the number of battery cells in their 1.5Ah packs. Thus, now that 4.0Ah 18V batteries are hitting the market, it is very reasonable to assume that 2.0Ah 12V and 18V packs are also on the way.
To shift capacity from 3.0Ah to 4.0Ah, power tool manufacturers sourced higher capacity battery cells. Or rather, they sourced lithium ion battery cells with greater charge density as newer higher-capacity cells seem to be the same physical size as previous cells.
Long story short, the advent of 2.0Ah 3.6V cells that make 18V 4.0Ah battery packs possible can be used for 2.0Ah 12V and 18V batteries as well.
When Will We See 2.0Ah Batteries?
That’s a tough question. Although 2.0Ah compact batteries can be produced, we might not see them on the market just yet. Mainly, the newer higher capacity cells are likely more expensive than the cells used in 1.5Ah and 3.0Ah packs, leading to higher priced 2.0Ah and 4.0Ah packs. While higher capacity compact packs sounds good, fewer users are going to be willing to pay higher prices.
The shift from 3.0Ah to 4.0Ah and 1.5Ah to 2.0Ah is a 33% increase in capacity.
Users often go with higher capacity packs to extend the runtime of more power-hungry and heavier-duty tools. Slim or compact packs are often used with lighter weight drills, drivers, and accessories. So you can imagine how a 33% increase in runtime will benefit heavier users. If a compact tool user needs greater runtime, they have the option to upgrade from a compact pack to an extended capacity battery pack.
The short answer is that we believe 2.0Ah batteries will inevitably hit the market, but we might not see them as soon, and they probably won’t be as heavily marketed and advertised as 4.0Ah battery packs.
Next-Generation 12V Tools
While we would be happy to see higher capacity compact 18V packs, we believe that 2.0Ah 12V batteries will have a much greater overall impact on the tools we use.
Higher capacity 12V batteries might permit for greater current draw, but at the very least they should provide 33% greater runtime. We believe that the added power available from higher-capacity packs will definitely allow for the development of even more demanding tools.
Consider two of Milwaukee’s recent developments – the M12 rotary hammer and a band saw. Granted these tools are both powered by 3.0Ah M12 XC batteries, but it gives you an idea of what higher capacity packs can permit.
It may not seem like big news that some brands are churning out 4.0Ah battery packs, but the same basic cells used to build those packs can greatly influence and guide development of next-generation 12V tools.
We’re still tapping our feet waiting for 12V brushless drills and drivers. We predicted that we wouldn’t see 12V brushless-powered tools until either costs dropped or brands could couple such developments with additional improvements or features. It’s difficult to judge, but perhaps a 33% boost in battery power is just what the major tool brands were waiting for.