You’ve no doubt heard about lithium-ion batteries by now, and have probably heard some of the claims about what an improvement they are over past battery technologies. So what exactly is lithium-ion, and is it really any better?
Ever since the first cordless tools were introduced and professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike applauded the convenience of no longer being tied to a power cord, manufacturers have been engaged in an ongoing search for batteries with more power and less weight. Lithium-ion, the latest generation of battery technology, offers just that — and more.
Batteries made from lithium ions offer a lot of energy compared to their weight, resulting in batteries that can provide considerable power while keeping the weight of the tool down. And since much of the weight of a cordless tool is in the battery itself, lighter lithium-ion batteries have also allowed manufacturers to create tools with better balance and greater comfort, so you can use them for much longer periods without fatigue.
In addition to less weight, lithium-ion batteries have no memory, so they can be recharged repeatedly back to their full capacity, even if charged when not fully depleted. They recharge quickly, and also tend to lose less of that charge when not in use.
So, when shopping for a new cordless drill or other tool powered by a rechargeable battery, it definitely pays to look for lithium-ion batteries (sometimes abbreviated Li-ion) over nickel-cadmium (NiCad) or nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Having embraced the potential of lithium-ion batteries, there are currently several Li-ion tools on the market. Here are examples of some quality tools from different manufacturers that utilize lithium-ion technology:
Ridgid: A manufacturer of professional quality tools that are also very suitable for the home handyman, Ridgid has several tools in its lithium-ion collection, including the Compact 18-Volt Drill/Driver. This is an excellent drill for the pro and the do-it-yourselfer alike, and it really utilizes current lithium-ion battery technology to its fullest. The smaller, lighter lithium-ion batteries clip easily into the base of the handle, and make for a drill with less weight and considerably better balance than some older cordless drills — something you’re certain to appreciate when building a deck or undertaking other big home-improvement projects. You’ll also find a tremendous amount of drilling power and driving torque; a battery that lasts a long time between rechargings; and fast, 30-minute recharge times.
Bosch: Another manufacturer known for professional-grade tools, Bosch also has several entries in the lithium-ion cordless tool marketplace. One way that it has taken advantage of the smaller, lighter Li-ion battery is with its great little 10.8-volt “I-Driver.” This light, compact, straight-line drill/driver has a head that rotates to five different positions, from zero to 90 degrees in relation to the handle. Even in the 90-degree position, the drill head is only 3 1/2 inches long, so it will fit into even the tightest spaces, but still with enough power to get some real work done. It has an eight-position clutch, accepts any 1/4-inch hex bit, and has a comfortable, sturdy feel. Also in Bosch’s lineup of light and powerful 10.8-volt tools are its “Pocket Driver” screwdriver and “Impactor” impact wrench, both of which are compact and light enough to drop into your tool belt, but again have enough power for real work.
Dremel: The small-tool champ, Dremel has used lithium-ion technology to create a nicely designed rechargeable screwdriver called the “Dremel Driver.” It uses a 7.2-volt motor, and recharges continuously in its docking stand. At less than 5 inches in length, the Dremel Driver can go just about anywhere, but still has enough power to handle 3-inch screws. It’s a great little screwdriver for electrical work, electronics and hobbies, and because it holds its charge for up to two years, it’s ready anytime you need it.
Skil: Lithium-ion-powered tools are certainly not restricted to just drills and screwdrivers, which Skil has demonstrated with its new Power Wrench. The Power Wrench works with any 1/4-inch socket, and recharges in its own stand. At a weight of less than two pounds and having 400 inch-pounds of torque, it’s great for carpentry work that requires lag bolts or nuts and bolts, as well as for automotive work, furniture assembly and other tasks where you used to reach for a socket wrench.
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