With its sights set on the goal of a completely cordless jobsite, DeWALT launched an industry-first FLEXVOLT™ lithium-ion battery platform earlier this month. FLEXVOLT batteries offer a whopping 60 volts of power and 6 amp-hour capacity — three times the voltage of its popular 20V MAX* batteries. But aside from tripling the voltage output, FLEXVOLT is unique in another important way: the batteries will work either on a new line of FLEXVOLT tools or are backwards compatible to most of DeWALT’s current 20V MAX* tools. No other high-power lithium-ion batteries in the cordless tool industry retrofit to other tools rated for lower voltages this way.
“We want to offer a single solution for the end user to enable a larger application range of capability,” says Ward Smith, group product manager. “Prior to FLEXVOLT, end users needed to use different systems of tools, batteries and chargers and still came up short in satisfying tool performance.”
There’s quite a lot to digest here, but suffice to say, if you dream of plugging batteries into even more types of tools than before, the FLEXVOLT system promises to open new doors of possibility. Case in point: this fall, DeWALT will offer five new 60V MAX* tools designed specifically for FLEXVOLT batteries. Among them, is an 8-1/4-in. jobsite table saw that will retail for around $499 with a battery and charger. (The other 60V MAX* tools will include a 7-1/4-in. circular saw, 4-1/2- to 6-in. angle grinder, reciprocating saw and a ½-in. stud and joist drill.) Additionally, DeWALT will be rolling out a 120V MAX* line of cordless tools. Using a pair of 60V MAX* batteries in tandem, the first two tools will be 12-in. fixed-head or sliding compound miter saws. DeWALT plans to have the new miter saws available this fall, too. They will be priced in kit form, with two batteries and a charger, at about $649 for the fixed-head saw and $799 for the sliding version.
Smith says part of the rationale for developing high-power FLEXVOLT batteries, is that power-demanding tools like table saws or full-size miter saws have to have them. “The new 60V MAX* and 120V MAX* tools contain higher voltage brushless motors, so quite simply, the 20V MAX* battery can’t supply the power required for these newly designed tools and motors.”
So, in order to broaden the range of cordless tool options into heavy-duty tools, a bigger and more powerful battery was necessary. It was time to head back to the drawing board. FLEXVOLT has been in development for a number of years.
The new miter saws’ 120-volt power requirement reaches the threshold of household wall current. It’s logical to wonder, will the new miter saws run off of a cord, too? The answer is yes. Should the need arise for AC power, a cord adapter (sold separately for around $49) will plug into the dual battery port so you can run these FLEXVOLT miter saws from an outlet, if you wish (the 60V MAX* table saw will not have an AC power cord adapter option). Ward says one reason why brushless motors are being used in all of the new FLEXVOLT tools is that their electronics make the tools more intelligent — they can allow for cordless or corded versatility like this, in the 120V MAX* tool line.
But regardless of the tool, brushless motors also offer extreme efficiency. A lack of carbon brushes enables them to develop less heat during use, fit into smaller tool compartments and extend the runtime possibilities of the battery.
FLEXVOLT batteries are aptly named, because a 60V MAX* battery can be clipped into a 20V MAX*, 60V MAX* or 120V MAX* tool interchangeably. How is this possible? Through a patent-pending technology, DeWALT has designed the battery to automatically change voltage to suit the power requirement of tool. Smith says the new 60V MAX* batteries actually function like five- or 10-cell 20V MAX* batteries until a rib on the specific tool switches the battery into higher power mode. At that point, all 15 cells of the larger battery are energized.
“It actuates an electrical, mechanical switch inside the battery to change the cell configuration from a parallel connection of the internal cells (20V MAX*) to a series configuration (60V MAX*),” Smith adds. This way, one battery serves three voltage platforms of tools.
But, maybe you’re not in need of a cordless table saw or miter saw. How will FLEXVOLT’s backwards compatibility and higher battery power benefit your current 20V MAX* DeWALT tools? There are two key ways.
First, switching over from 20V MAX* batteries to a FLEXVOLT 60V MAX* battery will allow your drilling and driving tools or saws to run about four times longer. That’s the main advantage: fewer trips to the charger. But, the design of the new batteries also uses lower impedance cells, compared with standard 20V MAX* batteries. And that translates to a bit more oomph at the trigger squeeze, too, Smith says.
“In higher draw applications with a 20V MAX* tool, the FLEXVOLT battery will provide a higher power feel to the tool. The end user will notice that the tool can complete applications a little faster than normal.”
It will come as no surprise that clipping a 60-volt battery to your current 20V MAX* DeWALT tool will add some extra weight — a FLEXVOLT battery pack weighs about a pound more than a premium 20V MAX* battery — 2.3 lbs. versus 1.4 lbs.
Switching to a new FLEXVOLT battery will cost around $149 for a single battery and no charger, DeWALT reports. You’ll be able to use your current 20V MAX* charger to replenish these new batteries, so you won’t have to upgrade to a new charger.
Eventually, 60-volt power will extend the runtime of DeWALT’s lawn and garden tools, too, while giving us more alternatives that don’t require gasoline as the energy source. Imagine using a full-size chainsaw for trimming limbs and sawing down trees without the blue haze of oily gas fumes. It will be a reality with FLEXVOLT soon.
“Our new 60V MAX” chainsaw is a great example of providing a solution where the 20V MAX* battery can’t deliver the required performance for a 16-in. chain bar. The new chainsaw will include our higher capacity (9 amp-hour) FLEXVOLT battery, launching in the beginning of 2017.”
With FLEXVOLT, DeWALT intends to make it easier to choose one battery for a wide variety of tools. Think of it: fewer battery choices, fewer chargers and longer runtime, coupled with the possibility of powering a wider variety of heavy-duty jobsite and outdoor tools. It seems the day may actually be coming when the only tool we’d need to plug into a wall outlet is the battery charger. FLEXVOLT is DeWALT’s ground-floor platform for making that happen, Smith projects.
“DeWALT will revolutionize the market with a system of tools that give end users the full range of capability … The new line of 60V MAX* and 120V MAX* tools deliver corded performance, in a cordless tool. No compromises.”
Learn more about DeWALT’s new FLEXVOLT battery system and tools by clicking here.