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Cordless power tools and predatory manufacturers

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I needed to drill a few holes in some garden woodwork earlier, so went hunting for a working cordless drill and a usable battery pack. Having eventually found a functional charger in the workshop, I had plenty of time for a forum search and to dig out this essay:

The predatory policies of manufacturers who sell a product at a loss but extort profit from the cost of consumables and maintenance is so regularly discussed these days that I think examples are spurious.

Allowing for the gradual adoption of repairability and product-lifetime guarantees in- in particular- the EU, do any manufacturers of cordless tools etc. stand out either in a good or (spectacularly) bad way?

For example, is the Hackaday writer's comment on Ryobi ("...all have the same battery. The idea presumably being that after five years you won’t simply have to replace your drill due to a dead battery, you’ll have to replace all your tools...") fair, and is there any manufacturer who has undertaken to keep their battery design stable for future products? **


** Preferably without mandating five-sided tooling.

I do agree with the author's basic premise. If you only use power tools occasionally, then the corded tools are the way to go, even with the hassle of needing to work around a cord and potentially (and very likely) and extension cord. The only downside, at least for drills, is that they don't usually have clutches. 

I don't see where the author makes that quote about Ryobi power tools.  I don't think it's a fair statement, either, and I am NO Ryobi fan boy.  I do buy and use battery power tools and yes I  can sympathize with the sentiment of high replacement battery costs. It'd be nice to have a single battery standard so that all power tools used the same battery so you're not locked into one manufacturer's battery system and battery costs would come way down.

Here're my observations from about the mid-90's on (when I bought my first battery powered tool): The major manufacturers do tend to keep their battery designs stable for a long time. While I cannot speak specifically to the battery designs for all of the major tool manufacturers, having owned and kept an eye on DeWalt tools, they kept their Nicad/NIMH battery designs for at least 10 - 15 years and were able to vary the sizes but still keep the interface (i.e. how it mates up both power and attachment wise to the tools) the same so that the various battery voltages were compatible with each other (I know the 9.6V through 14.4V were, but I may be mistaken about the 18V batteries, they may not have been compatible with the lower voltage tools). DeWalt only seemed to change to a new design when they switched over to the 20V LiON batteries, probably having more to do with safety so that owners did not try to charge new LiON batteries in old Nicad/NIMH chargers. I did not read all of the comments on that piece, but one person did comment that Ryobi's 18V batteries have been the same "for at least 15 years" and I believe it is more like 20 + years. They kept their battery design the same even when switching from Nicad/NIMH to LiON, so you could use a new LiON pack in the first tools released for that lineup.  What's more is that, with some patience, Ryobi's batteries can be bought at very reasonable prices (on a per pack basis) when they go on sale. So if you do buy into the Ryobi system, so far, they have made it fairly easy to stay with them in the long run. That's not to say that Ryobi is in the same class as DeWalt or Milwaukee or any of the other high end power tools, they are not, but they are perfectly adequate, IMHO, for most DIY'ers that use tools frequently enough to maintain battery powered tools, but are not day-in and day-out users. I have seen DeWalt and Milwaukee get more aggressive in replacement battery prices more recently (past couple of Black Friday's), but I have not noticed those deals happening quite as often as the Ryobi deals (mostly once a year around Black Friday, although perhaps around Father's Day, too). Until then, I would have said that it almost seemed like the bigger brands were more likely to be thrown out once enough of the batteries wore out that it made it more appealing to buy an entire multi-tool kit with batteries than to buy just the replacement batteries (on sale sometimes those multiple power tool kits are not much more than just buying a couple of replacement batteries when the batteries are not on sale).

Where I have noticed a lack of stability in battery designs is outdoor power equipment.  Even the big name brand manufacturers have not hit on a long term battery design that they will maintain for many years. The exception here, again, is with Ryobi which uses the same batteries as their power tools. But those brands known for being top outdoor power equipment brands (like Echo and Stihl, etc.) seem to change their battery designs too often, for my taste. Not to mention the "Johnny come lately's" like EGO and others which also look to have changed their battery pack designs a couple of times despite only being on the market for a few years.


--- Quote from: totalnoob on April 20, 2022, 12:31:11 pm ---I don't see where the author makes that quote about Ryobi power tools.

--- End quote ---

Comment about "lime-green power tools" in the para above a photo labelled "Ryobi TV" :-)

Apart from that, thanks for the comprehensive comments.


That's exactly my problem with cordless power tools, I don't use most of the stuff enough to keep the batteries alive. The only exception is the cordless drill. I've got 4 by now. Three of them are >20 years old Makitas that still use NiCd/NiMH packs and one newer more powerful Fein drill I bought last year. One of the Makitas permanently lives in the electronics lab, the other two live in the shed/wood/metall working shop. I'm still undecided where the newbie will find its home.

The old Makita 12V NiMH packs are now cheaply available from China. NiMH is a mature and reasonably safe chemistry that even the Chinese can't screw up to badly. On the other hand I'm still not 100% comfortable with filling the house with LiIon, I nearly had one burn down the house some years ago.

All the other tools that I maybe only use 5 times a year like router, grinder and such are and will stay corded.

The battery situation is the same as printer ink and I had one inkjet printer. Never again. I will not pay those inflated prices.

For home use to an extent the problem can be mitigated by using inter-series/inter-brand battery adapters.


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