Looking to dispel skepticism in the construction industry about the jobsite performance of cordless power tools, DeWalt is launching Flex Volt, a new battery platform that not only drives the company’s new 60-volt tool line but also maintains compatibility with its existing 20-volt Max tools.
 “When we ask users if they would rather go cordless or corded, they tell us cordless,” says Frank Mannarino, president of the professional products group at Stanley Black & Decker, of which DeWalt is a business unit. “When you look at the power requirements of the key applications on the jobsite, our 20V platform or a competitor’s 18V platform just does not have the power to go after the land of corded and gas-powered tools.”

The new 60-volt tools running on the Flex Volt platform are meant to tackle tasks normally reserved for corded tools. At a demonstration center set up near Baltimore, DeWalt showed ENR how its 60V 71⁄4-in. circular saw can easily cut a triple-stack of 3⁄4-in. oriented standing board. The saw cuts up to 300 ft of ¾-in. OSB on a single charge, says Mannarino.

“As we developed Flex Volt, we developed this new 60V system on a brushless platform,” says Ward Smith, DeWalt product manager for batteries and chargers. Switching to brushless motors
reduces overall tool weight, says Smith. “For the cordless table saw, we maintain the same 24-in. cutting capacity as our corded saw,” he adds. “For those of us who use table saws, generally, they require two hands and a strong back to carry around the site. But [the cordless saw] with the battery pack weighs only about 45 pounts. It will be one of the lightest on the market.” 

For its new miter saw, DeWalt decided one battery pack wasn’t enough. The 120V miter saw runs on two Flex Volt batteries and can make cuts usually reserved for corded saws. “It’s a full-size miter saw—the same power as our 12-inch corded miter saw,” says Mannarino. “For run time, with two fully charged packs you can cut about 250 2x4s.” The 120V compound miter saw will be available as a fixed-head or sliding style. The 120V miter saws also can run off corded power, allowing the Flex Volt batteries to be used in other tools when power is available.

In addition to the high-powered saws, the new 60V line also includes a 41⁄2-in. to 6-in. angle grinder, a reciprocating saw and a 1⁄2-in. stud-and-joist drill.
Getting the extra power out of the battery pack required more than just packing in additional cells. Dewalt’s standard 20V pack consists of five 4V lithium cells running in series. The 20V XR battery pack has ten 4V cells in parallel, providing the same voltage with a longer run time. For Flex Volt, the battery has 15 4V cells that can run in parallel for 20V and switch to running in series to deliver a full 60V. “This concept is at the center of one of the largest patent filings in our company’s history,” says Mannarino.

To avoid drawing the incorrect voltage, the battery has a mechanical switch that slides into place, depending on whether it is inserted into a 20V or 60V tool. On a 20V tool, Flex Volt batteries can provide 6.0 amp-hours of run time.
To avoid issues with heat buildup that can cause a battery to stop functioning properly, DeWalt also went with a different lithium-ion cell for Flex Volt. “With a different cell with a larger diameter, there’s more active material in the cell,” explains Smith. “We get the users better performance and battery life. The worst thing we could do is give you a high-capacity battery but have it always shut down because it’s too hot. So, that’s why we went with this new design.”
The Flex Volt battery will be available in fall 2016, and an extended run-time, 9-amp-hour version will launch January 2017. Rolling out a new battery platform and tool line is a major investment for DeWalt, but Mannarino thinks people will see the benefits. “We’re bringing the power of cordless freedom to our users.” n