On June 21st, 2016 at 8:30 A.M in Baltimore, Maryland, the power tool industry changed when the DeWalt FlexVolt system was unveiled. It brings never before seen technology to the table and opens up even more tools to the cordless world.
What makes DeWalt FlexVolt so revolutionary is that it is wired for both 20V Max and 60V Max – the tool tells the battery which mode to operate in so it’s completely automatic for the user. Electronic controls have given DeWalt the technology to wire the FlexVolt battery both ways to offer either extreme run time in 20V Max tools or incredible power in 60V Max and 120V Max tools. Even better is that we’ll be seeing another model come out with upgraded cells to cover 9.0 amp hours as a 20V Max battery or 3.0 amp hours as a 60V Max power source.
20V Max and 60V Max from the Same Battery – How?
The idea of battery pack wiring is fairly straightforward – wire lithium-ion battery cells in a series to increase the voltage. Wire them in parallel for greater amp hours.
Wired For Greater Amp Hours
20V Max (18 volts nominal) are made with sets of five lithium-ion cells wired in series. Each cell produces 4V Max (3.6 volts nominal) and the series connection multiplies it to make 20 volts. The 2.0 amp hours in each cell don’t combine in any way, so the battery is a 20V Max, 2.0 amp hour battery – also known as DeWalt’s compact battery.
A second set of five cells is then wired to the first by a parallel connection. Now the voltage remains the same and the amp hours are added to create DeWalt’s 20V Max, 4.0 amp hour battery. A third set of cells can be wired in parallel and would give you 6.0 amp hours in your 20V Max battery.
Wired for Greater Voltage
If you were to remove the two parallel connections between the five cell sets and replace them with series connections, you’d get a 60V Max, 2.0 amp hour battery. That concept is what has driven higher voltage systems, like 40V Max in DeWalt’s OPE and the 56V and 80V Max batteries on other platforms.
Before DeWalt FlexVolt, you had to choose a hard configuration for your battery to perform in. If you wanted a higher voltage battery, you had to move to a completely new platform incompatible with the lower voltage system. Another solution was to combine multiple batteries with a series connection between them to double the voltage.
If you look inside the DeWalt FlexVolt battery pack, you’ll find 15 lithium-ion cells along with wiring configurations for both 20V Max and 60V Max power supply. Electronic communication between the tool and the battery tells the cells which set of wiring to run on.
DeWalt FlexVolt – Why?
Corded tools draw different amounts of power. A drill may get all the torque it needs from a 6 amp motor while a miter saw needs a 15 amp motor to perform well. Each motor has an amperage rating, but the power consumption is actually measured in watts (your power bill always shows kilowatt hours used). With FlexVolt, tools that draw fewer watts for their smaller brushless motors use the 20V Max configuration. When higher watts are required by larger brushless motors, the battery switches to 60V Max.
You can think of a lithium-ion battery like a gas tank – it has a set capacity of potential energy available. In the case of DeWalt FlexVolt batteries, that’s 108 nominal watt hours (nominal voltage times amp hours). The 9.0 amp hour FlexVolt will have 162 watt hours when it’s released. That gas tank is drained by a combination of voltage draw and amp hour draw (current). Multiply the two values together to get power measured in watts. DeWalt found in its research that the larger brushless motors run better at 60V Max and 120V Max than they do trying to push a higher amp current through at 20V Max. At the same time, there are all the tools they’ve developed that run just fine at 20V Max.
They idea behind FlexVolt is to create a cordless jobsite where there’s no compromise on power and performance no matter what tool is used without forcing the user to be tied to multiple battery systems.
A Note About Air Travel Safety
108 and 162 nominal watts actually create an issue for distribution and travel by air. At 100 watts capacity, restrictions kick in based on the inherent risk associated with lithium-ion cells’ thermal runaway should they overheat and catch fire, usually due to a short. We can carry smaller lithium-ion batteries on board if they are installed in a device or properly packaged. DeWalt has developed a simple, but effective work around. By locking DeWalt’s flight adapter in place on the battery, the 108 watt hour system is divided into three 36 watt sections and certified safe for air travel. Its connection to the terminals helps prevent shorts in addition to creating the cell separation required by the FAA.
What Will DeWalt FlexVolt Power?
DeWalt has a variety of tools lined up for the FlexVolt line and there are certainly more to come. Here’s a brief look at what to expect with MSRPs. We’ll have more details and reviews later. One of the key features is that the FlexVolt battery is backwards compatible to all your existing DeWalt 20V Max tools.
DeWalt FlexVolt 120V Max Tools
- DHS716AB/T2 Fixed Blade Miter Saw with Adapter Cord: $499/$649
- DHS790AB/T2 Sliding Miter Saw with Adapter Cord: $649/$799
DeWalt FlexVolt 60V Max Tools
- DCS575B/T1/T2 Circular Saw: $179/$299/$379
- DCS388B/T1/T2 Reciprocating Saw: $179/$299/$379
- DCS485B/T1 Table Saw: $379/$499
- DCG414B/T1/T2 Grinder: $179/$299/$379
- DCD460B/T1/T2 Stud and Joist Drill: $279/$399/$479
DeWalt FlexVolt 60V Max Outdoor Power Equipment
- String Trimmer
*limited information available at this time
DeWalt FlexVolt 20V Max Tools
- DCL070/DCL070T1 Area Light: $399/$499
- DCK299D1T1 Hammer Drill & Impact Driver Kit: $379
DeWalt FlexVolt Batteries, Chargers, Radios, and Adapters
- DCB606 FlexVolt 20/60V Max Battery 6.0 AH: $149
- DCB606-2 FlexVolt 20/60V Max Battery 6.0 AH 2-Pack: $199
- DCB118 Fast Charger: $79
- DCA120 120 Volt Adapter: $49
- DCR025 Bluetooth Radio Charger: $199
- DCB1800B Portable Power Station: $399
- DCB1800M3T1 Portable Power Station with (3) 4.0 AH 20V Max Batteries and (1) 6.0 AH FlexVolt Battery: $599
Get your DeWalt FlexVolt tools from Acme Tools!