The Epic Battle Between Red & Yellow Wages On!

M18 vs flexvolt

Back in 1990’s Dewalt owned 50% the professional cordless market which is a staggering thought. To get there they constantly came out with new tools, the deals were aggressive and market became saturated with yellow NiCd batteries. The downside for consumers of any power tool company getting too big is frankly that they get lazy, the deals become less aggressive and the new product development slows greatly or goes off in directions that don’t make sense. In the late 2000’s Milwaukee really reinvented themselves and their big investments in brushless technology paid off. Over the past 8 years the underdog in cordless tools became the leaders in technology, market share grew and their aggressive deals were very reminiscing of the yellow team from a decade earlier.

Up until yesterday it seemed as if Dewalt was going to simply sit by and let the Red team lead the way in cordless and be happy to release “me to” products a year later. With yesterday’s launch of Dewalt’s FLEXVOLT line of 60V brushless tools it seems like that is not the case anymore and they are again getting aggressive and ready for a head to head battle in brushless tools.

This is great news for consumer, because there are folks at Milwaukee & Dewalt right now dreaming up new ways to get their tools & batteries into your hands! Whether you are Red Team or Yellow Team good news is it should mean better deals and more new products on both sides of the fence!

FlexVolt 20V or 60V

What’s the Big Deal with Dewalt FLEXVOLT?

Dewalt had notable fallen behind on brushless tools for their 20V MAX platform, no brushless recip, no brushless circular saw and several other key tools missing from the lineup. This new 60v/20v battery is a big innovation (lots of future possibly in accepting different voltages) and new lineup of brushless tools are huge steps forward for making products that, from our short first impressions, are equal to or outperform the equivalent Milwaukee M18 FUEL tools.

The reality is most people just want more power at an equal or cheaper price. If Dewalt does it with 60V tools great, the downside to that is that all the millions of Dewalt 20V Max batteries won’t work with the new tools and users are going to need to switch to the FLEXVOLT system. If history tells us anything, people don’t like to switch. Our big question looking down the road 5 years is will the 20V/60V platform better prepare Dewalt for the future advancements? When are we going to see cordless 120V jack hammers, 120V concrete mixers and 120V lawnmowers (240V riding perhaps)?

voltage story

Is 60V three times more powerful that 18V?

It don’t matter who you are cleaver marketing oozes into your brain and doesn’t go away. Ask any 8 years old would you rather be shocked with 18 volts or 60 volts of electricity. It is easy for anyone to assume something that is 60 volts is more powerful than 18 volts, it doesn’t mean it is true but it does make it effective marketing. When you dig into the world of electric motors you realize pretty quickly voltage doesn’t matter nearly as much as watt output to determine power. It is very common for the same motor to be available in multiple different voltages. That being said the limitations on capacity are much different for voltages. For building a great cordless 7-1/4” circular saw, voltage (18V, 36V or 60V) is much less of a factor that watt output of your motor (unfortunately rarely do tool makers share watt rating).

Milwaukee vs Dewalt

The Dewalt FLEXVOLT 6.0Ah vs Milwaukee M18 9.0Ah Batteries

Both batteries are 15 Cells at 3.6V – Standard Cell Size for anything battery powered
Runtime Dewalt 2.0Ah vs Milwaukee 3.0Ah – Milwaukee is using denser cells with higher capacity
Energy Capacity Dewalt 108 Wh vs Milwaukee 162Wh – These are very different batteries by 50%.
Price Dewalt $150 vs Milwaukee $200 – Comparable values looking at $/Wh
Despite the fact that both batteries are 15 cells and about the same size it is clear these are 2 totally different batteries. Higher density cells cost more to manufacture but are required to make smaller battery packs with higher output. Dewalt is planning a 9.0Ah FLEXVOLT (early 2017)  and Milwaukee will soon be launching a M18 6.0Ah (10 cells, same size as 5.0Ah) with 108 Wh. For a true comparison we will want to compare the FLEXVOLT to the M18 6.0Ah. Or wait to compare the M18 9.0Ah to the FLEXVOLT 9.0Ah next year.

Can Milwaukee M18 FUEL Remain a Leader in Brushless?

We aren’t expecting Milwaukee fans to jump ship just yet but for the first time in several years we are seeing some real competition in brushless tools. Dewalt FLEXVOLT will be the only cordless 12” miter and only cordless table saw options for the near future. It is possible for our 2016 head to head comparisons for cordless grinders (2015) or cordless recip saws (2015) Milwaukee could be 2nd or 3rd place. Of course the nature way of things with any product cycle, newer products will jump ahead as technology improves. Remembering it was at the 2013 Milwaukee event where we first saw the FUEL grinder, FUEL Sawzall and FUEL circular saw puts a little perspective on things. The expectation should be that between any serious rivalry one should easily beat a 3 year model of another whether 18V, 36V or 54V.

We saw the second generation of FUEL brushless drills hit the market late last year and jumped from 750 in-lbs to 1200 in-lbs in power while actually going down in size. If that is any indication for what the next generation of FUEL sawzalls, circular saws and grinders has instore we have no doubt they could easily raise the bar again. With the big media hoopla over it doesn’t look like we will see any of those in 2016 but perhaps 2017?

At last year’s Milwaukee event, with the launch of their 9.0Ah battery and M18 SDS-Max Rotary hammer we ask Paul Fry, Senior VP of Product Management will you be creating any larger tools that will require two M18 batteries (similar to Makita 36V at the time). He said they did not see any limitations on the M18 platform that would require the use of two batteries but it is possible in the future. If they can squeeze out enough power to run full size SDS-Max Rotary Hammers and 10” Miter Saws on a single battery it would seem anything with a cord running standard AC power is fair game for M18.

Milwaukee M18

The commitment to staying on one platform so that the first M18 tools and M18 2.6Ah batteries will still with 9.0Ah and all the new tools is huge. Milwaukee is betting big on the commitment to not switch battery platforms every few years means something to build on trust and loyalty.

And the Winner is…

Ahh but the battle is just beginning, who will win the hearts and mind of the people? From a tool blogger point of view it’ll be interesting story to follow. For a tool shopper point of view it’ll be great to see what deals come out of the wood work. The new Dewalt brushless 60V tools with 2x of the 6.0Ah FLEXVOLT batteries are about the same prices as similar Milwaukee FUEL tools with 5.0Ah batteries.

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