Milwaukee’s V28 line caused quite a bit of a stir in the industry last year, harnessing the power of lithium-ion, bringing it to the job site, and putting it to work in some of the most powerful cordless tools available. In August, Milwaukee plans to bring the V28’s technology to the 18 volt crowd with the release of their new V18 cordless line.
We spoke to Milwaukee about V18, and we’ve prepared this post to give you an idea of what to expect. Read on past the jump for the details.
The V18 system draws on the same technology as the V28, utilizing the V28’s lithium manganese spinel cells. The lithium manganese chemistry was first developed to help deliver the power of lithium-based cells at lower manufacturing cost, and over the last decade it’s been developed into a very thermally-stable and powerful option for applying lithium-ion technology to high-current-draw applications such as power tools. The cells used in the V28 and now the new V18 line actually produce 4V each, which allows Milwaukee to create battery packs with fewer cells for the voltage — an advantage both in size and in heat dissipation.
Right now you’re probably doing the math in your head — as we did — and asking, “How do they make an 18V pack out of 4V cells?” The answer: they didn’t. The new V18 is actually a 20V pack, but due to marketing’s concerns that you might not feel ok using the new 20V battery with your legacy 18V tools, they stuck with the V18 name. (More about backwards compatability later.)
Despite the fact that the new V18 cell packs are 3 amp-hour batteries, they’re actually 1/2 lb. lighter than their 18V NiCd equivalents. This power leads to a significant improvent in runtime, which is what we’ve come to expect with Li-ion. NiCds also tend to drop off amp flow significantly in their last 20% of operation, which can be a real hassle when you’re using a high amp-draw tool such as a reciprocating saw or circular saw. The new V18 (like the V28) will operate at full capacity until the end of each charge cycle. Milwaukee’s calling this “fade-free power.”
Milwaukee has also indicated that the V18 will offer significantly better cold weather performance than the 18V NiCds it’ll replace as the electronics in the battery are designed to “coax” power from the cells by adjusting amp flow to heat up the cells to their best operating temperature quickly. Those same electronics drive Milwaukee’s “fuel gauge,” a multi-led array on the back of the battery that also carried over from the V28 line.
Interestingly, since Milwaukee chose to include the system’s electronics in the battery (vs. in the tool — the route chosen by other companies such as Bosch), they can use a new hand-held “battery reader” unit to electronically “read” the battery to determine charge cycles and other usage information. Milwaukee plans to distribute these “battery readers” to their field staff and repair depots to assist in implementing their cycle-based warranty: a 2-year, 1000 cycle full replacement guarantee with an extended 5-year, 2000 cycle pro-rate plan.
One of the most exiting features of the V18 system, in our opinion, is its full backwards compatability with existing 18 volt Milwaukee tools. In fact, with the exeption of the drill/driver, all the tools in the new V18 line are unchanged from Milwaukee’s current 18 volt lineup.
(Though Milwaukee has chosen to make no official claims, they did indicate that testers in the field report seeing their older tools run slightly faster and feel a bit more powerful when upgraded with the new V18 batteries. This would make sense to us, as the new 20 volt packs would slightly overdrive the older tools. Of course, your mileage may vary. Milwaukee does, of course, tout the longer runtime available with the V18 “upgrade.”)
The new V18 drill/driver offers increased torque — a whopping 550 in-lbs, which places it in the top-tier of 18 volt drivers on the market. To handle the torque, it features a new all-metal gear case as well. You’ll notice that it look significantly thinner than other Milwaukee models. According to Milwaukee, they made a consious effort to address their reputation for somewhat bulky — though durable — tools by reducing size and bulk.
The drill/driver also includes a clutch bypass switch, which will allow you to engage full-power mode (clutchless operation) without moving the clutch setting ring. So, for example, if you’d found the perfect clutch setting for driving screws into a cabinet then needed to quickly pre-drill a hole, you could flip the switch, drill the hole, flip it back, and continue driving screws at your previous clutch setting. This strikes us as one of those, “Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?” type of ideas, and we look forward to it.
V18 tools will ship with a universal charger capable of charging any Milwaukee battery from 18 to 28 volts. This means you won’t have to throw away your existing 18 volt NiCds; you can continue to use the full compliment of your Milwaukee equipment on the job site. The new charger will fully rechare a Li-ion V18 battery in 60 minutes, but’ll handle the old NiCds in just 40.
All in all, we’re excited to lay our hands on these when they become available to see first hand how these specs feel in daily use. We suspect the V18 will follow the V28’s lead in popularity, enabling a much wider base of power users to make the swap to Li-ion.
Press Release [Milwaukee]