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Let’s talk about what 2024 could hold for the cordless power tool industry.
The road ahead is a bit murky, and certainly more opaque than in previous years.
Cordless power tools are in somewhat of a plateau period right now, where the ball of progress can roll in any direction, or stand absolutely still for a while longer.
Next-Gen Batteries and the Next-Gen Tools They’ll Drive
Dewalt and Milwaukee both have next-gen batteries out now – PowerStack and Forge, respectively – but neither launched next-generation tools yet.
With PowerStack, Dewalt went with upgrade options. Both batteries delivers more power than older style batteries of comparable charge capacity, while also being smaller.
Milwaukee launched an M18 Forge battery with 6Ah capacity, and a 12Ah battery is in the works.
The company hinted that the 12Ah Forge battery will establish a new higher power delivery and performance tier, and it’s all but guaranteed that Milwaukee will launch a couple of new tools alongside it. Maybe that’s why Milwaukee has not yet launched the cordless snow blower they’ve been working on.
Bosch announced tabless batteries in Europe, with similar technology as Milwaukee will be using in their Forge 12Ah batteries. Makita launched a higher performance XGT battery overseas as well.
What kinds of tools will be supported by these next-gen higher performance batteries?
Pouch cell batteries have to be custom-designed, as brands work closely with their OEM partners. Tabless Li-ion cells are expected to be available to any brand that wishes to use them.
There has been a growing divide in the tool industry, between the two most popular cordless power tool brands (Dewalt and Milwaukee) and all of the others.
This isn’t the only industry where two major brands pull ahead from the rest of the competition – consider Coke and Pepsi, or Apple and Samsung.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it could drive the competition to innovate harder and faster, but it could shape different brands’ strategies and approaches.
There’s still a lot of competition in the DIYer space, but I would say that Ryobi is still king of that hill.
Do professional and DIY cordless power tool brands still have major holes to fill in their lineups? What types of new tools will leverage the higher power output of next-generation batteries?
Cordless Outdoor Power Tools
Outdoor power tools are going cordless, for real this time. Maybe?
Home Depot announced earlier this year that they expect:
by the end of fiscal year 2028, more than 85% of U.S. and Canada’s sales in outdoor power equipment, specifically push lawn mowers and handheld outdoor equipment like leaf blowers and trimmers, will run on rechargeable battery technology instead of gas.
They add that:
To reach this goal, The Home Depot will work to extend its leadership position in battery technology and offer cordless outdoor power tools from market leading brands such as Ryobi, Milwaukee, Makita, DeWalt and more. These brands are committed to building rechargeable tools that deliver the power that customers have come to expect from gas-powered equipment and the run times they need to complete a job, all with less noise, less maintenance and easier startups.
Home Depot – and Lowe’s – are huge sales drivers for their partnered cordless power tool brands.
We’re going to see more innovation in this space.
Are professional landscapers using cordless equipment yet?
The biggest challenge right now is in making cordless outdoor power equipment more attractive to heavier users, such as professional landscapers and other such workers.
Can the tools do the job? They’re definitely getting there.
Cordless tools offer convenience advantages over gas engine tools.
But, runtime remains a complication.
According to government estimates, 1 gallon of gasoline holds around 33.4 kilowatt hours of energy. The number varies a little, but 33.4 kWh looks to be the standard expectation.
So that’s 33400 watt-hours of energy.
An 18V cordless power tool battery with 12Ah charge capacity holds around 216 watt-hours of energy.
With this in mind, and unless I’m missing something important, it means that you would need approximately 155 12Ah batteries to match up to the energy capacity of a single gallon of gasoline.
Let’s say small engine efficiency is 40%. That would mean it would only take around 62x 18V 12Ah batteries to hold as much energy as a gallon of gasoline.
How many gallons of gas does a landscaper burn through in a typical work day? 2 or 3 person team?
How would a cordless-only landscaper charge everything?
A couple of brands are working on different solutions, and so far it’s looking expensive.
Some brands, such as Kress, are offering truck-mountable battery power stations.
Milwaukee has a new Roll-on power supply aimed at construction-type jobsite use, but I would bet they’re working on a truck-mounted solution as well.
Dewalt has talked about a battery subscription program for their 60V 3.6 kWh batteries.
Each of these batteries has the same watt-hours of energy capacity as nearly (17) 18V or 20V Max 12Ah batteries.
Two of these Dewalt PowerEquip batteries has the same energy capacity as more than (33) 18V or 20V Max 12Ah batteries.
It’s looking like larger tools – such as ride-on mowers – are going to be powered by larger capacity batteries (think Milwaukee MX Fuel or similar, maybe larger), and maybe multiple of them. Handheld tools might be powered by higher capacity cordless power tool batteries – such as 12Ah packs – which would be recharged via truck-based battery banks and power stations.
The charging rate is going to have to be fast in order to keep up with workers’ demands.
Some brands – such as Ego with their PGX commercial charging system – seem to be going with a “charge all your batteries at the end of the day” type of approach.
Ego says that their PGX commercial charging system can recharge up to 70 batteries overnight from a standard outlet.
Ultimately, the industry might settle on a hybrid approach. I don’t think that overnight charging of up to 70 batteries is going to appeal to professional or commercial users.
However, overnight charging of a larger power supply might become the de facto approach, or a big part of it.
There are plenty of cordless outdoor power tools available right now, but it seems few landscapers and other such pros have traded in their gas engine tool collections.
Dewalt recently launched new EV chargers. Perhaps similar systems will be used to recharge landscapers’ power supplies.
There are going to be huge opportunities in the cordless outdoor power tools and equipment space, and many brands are showing signs of the development work going on behind closed doors.
It’s clear that brands are going to have to offer high convenience to professional landscapers, and in a way that doesn’t exist yet.
The consumer cordless OPE market is mature at this point, but the professional industry has yet to really take off.
Brands are taking the time for one simple reason. On a tool-to-tool basis, cordless wins out. But when looking at a day’s work with a truck or tailer full of tools, gas is still the preferred choice. Converting pro landscapers is going to cost a huge amount of money – for brands and businesses – and I would predict low adoption rates until or unless switching over is regionally mandated.
I expect a lot of work is being done right now, to develop landscaper-friendly system-based solutions.
The big question is, what are going to see in 2024?