Battery Breakthroughs

Two companies have taken battery technology into new territory. Although nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery power has been trickling into several manufacturers' tools over the past few years, only Makita and Panasonic have built full compliments of cordless tools powered by these batteries. As a result, they've brought more power and higher amp-hours to their cordless lines. Both companies claim to have overcome any technical problems with NiMH – like fewer charge/drain cycles or poor cold weather operation. The backbone of both companies' systems lies in their chargers. NiMH batteries create heat as they're charged; that heat must be dissipated so the batteries can accept a full charge without burning up.

Panasonic is using its position as one of the world's leading battery manufacturers to change the world of cordless tools, starting with its line of saws, hammerdrills, drill/drivers, and rotary hammers. Panasonic engineers have found that evacuating heat from NiMH cells during the charging process is the key to success. And not only do Panasonic's new batteries produce 3 amp-hours, the company's chargers will fully charge the new batteries in 45 minutes. Engineers say they're on track to launch a 4-amp-hour battery late next year. Pricing varies. For more information, contact Panasonic Professional Cordless Tools, at 800-338-0552; www.panasonic.com/cordlesstools.

Makita USA's MakStar System features computer chip-equipped battery chargers and batteries. Once a charger has charged a battery, it retains that battery's charge/drain history in its memory. Since individual battery cells drain at different rates, Makita's engineers designed the chargers to detect how a particular battery drains. The company's "smart" charger then customizes the proper charge, topping off a battery cell where required. MakStar tools come with 1.7-amp-hour batteries (which weigh less than the company's 18-volt Nicad batteries); 3-amp-hour batteries are available as accessories. All supply 24 volts of power and use the same charger. Both amp-hour platforms run a range of Makita tools. Pricing varies. For more information, contact Makita USA, 800-462-5482; www.makitatools.com.

Coleman Powermate

We always like to see tool efficiencies that reduce setup and break down time. Coleman Powermate's award-winning DualPower model does that by combining a generator and an air compressor into one, albeit heavy, machine. An 11-hp Honda engine with a 5-gallon tank and idle-control powers the DualPower. The machine is rated at 3,000 watts (3,600 surge watts) and has a 120-volt twistlock outlet and a 120-volt GFCI outlet. Maximum air delivery from the compressor's three 2-gallon tanks is 93 cfm at 90 psi. The compressor also has universal quick connects. This means your crew can simultaneously run three nailers and two circ saws from one source. One crew member can use the fold-away handles to move the 373-pound unit on its two pneumatic tires. The DualPower sells for $1,799. For more information, contact Coleman Powermate, 800-445-1805; www.colemanpowermate.com.

Spec out Portable Generators on ebuild, the Professional's Guide to Building Products (TM).

ebuild specs for Electric Air Compressors.

ebuild specs for Gas Air Compressors.