Makita 4Ah li-ion Batteries - Why Go Bigger When You Can Go Smarter

They're all at it, aren't they? The 4Ah revolution has swepth through the world of power tools for a couple of years with all of the major manufacturers coming to marketing with their own interpretation of a higher capacity lithium-ion battery will mean for you on the jobsite.

The jist is fairly consistent:

  • higher capacity batteries, typically 30% more
  • longer runtime, typically a third more

However, one massive player has been missing from the 4Ah battery. Makita.

So, the question I wanted to pose to our friends in Milton Keynes last week was "why hasn't Makita launched a 4Ah li-ion battery pack?"


It's a question that's understandable, considering Makita's massive share of the UK - and European - power tool market, a market that's vertiably flooded with Makita li-ion powered tools.

It has to be said, though, Makita are playing it cool. Very cool.

In a sentence, you could sum up their position as follows;
"Two 3Ah li-ion batteries equals 6Ah."


I wanted more info on this logic, so I endeavoured to pin Ray Wilby down (Makita's UK Training Manager, a man who is as honest and pragmatic about power tools as you'll ever find) on the subject: why hasn't Makita launched a 4Ah battery and can you explain why someone should continue to invest in Makita cordless tools?

He agreed to walk me through what Makita offers in terms of lithium-ion technology, capacity, charging capabilities and in-tool intelligence. Plus there's the whole issue of brushless motors to consider.

Click to watch him explain it on Toolstop TV.


You see, while Makita may not currently have a 4Ah battery, the company is emphasising how well their chargers handle the batteries and how well the batteries handle your power tools.

Here's how it works.

Each "star" battery (look on the underside of the battery for a small embossed star) contains a chip that's read by the "intelligent" charger. The charger evaluates the condition of the battery's cells based on the info contained on the chip.


It will then initiate the best charging sequence to guarantee optimum charge time while protecting the cells within the battery.

Makita claim 22 minutes to completely recharge a 3Ah battery.

That's considerably faster than any of the stated charge times for competitor's 4Ah batteries. It could be argued that it takes less time to recharge two 3Ah batteries than it does to recharge one 4Ah battery.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this!
That's what the comment section below is for.


The "intelligence" isn't limited to just the charger. The power tools bearing Makita's "star" have a chip fitted in them that monitors the performance of the tool - how hard you're working it and how it's responding - and relays this to the battery, making sure that enough power reaches the motor, protecting the motor from drawing more power than the battery can offer.

This protects the battery's cells from damage; damaged cells are inefficient at holding a charge, meaning your power tool's runtime will be impeded, meaning more time on the charger, meaning less time in your hands.

However, run-time is determined by more than just the battery and the charger.

The battery is required to power the motor of the tool, so Makita is investing in more efficient motors; it makes sense; the more efficient the motor, the longer it can run using the Ah of the battery.

We already know that for many of our power tools, brushless motors are the future. In fact, such motors are already here with new offerings from DeWalt and Bosch, for example. That being said, Makita seems to be blazing a new trail with the slew of brushless tools in their stable. Click here for an overview of what's in the brushless power tool market.

And here's where, again, they feel their 3Ah li-ion batteries are sufficient:

They claim up to 30% and "double" the run-time out of the same capacity battery (3Ah) when it's powering a brushless motor. Quite a claim!

Again, let us know your thoughts on this - and share your job site experiences - in the comments section below.

So let's summarise:

  • Makita's intelligent chargers are well equipped to efficiently recharge 3Ah batteries in 22 minutes
  • Makita's "star" rated batteries constantly monitor and protect the health of the cells and make sure your tool gets the power it needs
  • Makita's "star" rated tools have intelligent chips that talk to the battery, relaying what's expected in terms of power
  • Makita's brushless power tools run off 3Ah li-ion batteries for signifantly longer than brushed motors, meaning you get more out of the 3Ah batteries

It would seem that, while Makita currently aren't launching a 4Ah li-ion battery, the company is very comfortable with it's investment in more brushless motors and more intelligence in the tools, the batteries and the chargers.

The argument seems to be why would you want a battery that take up to an hour to charge (4Ah), when you can have 2 batteries charge in less time (2 x 3Ah = 6Ah), each powering a brushless motored tool for "double" the time?

It's quite a position to take.


What's your thoughts on this? Do you think Makita are stalling on the 4Ah battery stakes? Or do you believe that the technology and seeming efficiency of what they already offer cuts through the market hype about larger capacity li-ion batteries?

And what actually matters to you on the jobsite: less time waiting for batteries to charge, or great capacity in the battery in the first place?

Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to Share this article using our Share buttons.

Comments

bill on Thu, 06 Feb 2014 23:54:40 +0000 (Likes: 3 / Dislikes: 0

I just bought my second set of makita tools. Had them for the last 7 years with only minor repairs. I am a professional and use them every day. Sounds like you got the short end of the stick. My tools and batteries work great. Must be that you have them out in the rain to often or dunk them in salt water.


Cordless fan on Sat, 11 Jan 2014 22:46:44 +0000 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

I believe if the 4amp batteries are a good idea if you're on a jobsite where there's no power to recharge batteries. For example at the beginning of a new development project. This allows more runtime and combined with the brushless motor prevents having to get a generator on site for recharging. Otherwise though I would say 3amp are probably the better choice as there's more charging time for the 4amp which I believe personally erases the benefit of the longer runtime. As 3amp provide a respectable runtime and 22 minute recharge is impressively fast.


Brian Cornish on Fri, 10 Jan 2014 09:46:05 +0000 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

I'm a Kiwi carpenter working in high volume commercial stuff for the rebuild of Christchurch (post earthquake). My two 1830 batteries are used and abused daily! They were bought in 2008 and have never let me down. Even now they recharge in 22-25 mins as they have done. I need another one to cope with the number of cordless tools I use on site these days but all in all they have performed bloody well!


DAVE on Fri, 20 Dec 2013 00:33:21 +0000 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

I THINK YOU ARE ALSO JAMESJOINER, THE BRICKED IT GIVES THE GAME AWAY.
MAKITA DRILLS ARE THE BEST OUT THERE, THE JIGSAW MAYBE A BIT WEAK, I HAVE HAD NO PROBLEMS AFTER 2 YEARS DAILY BATTERY USE.


DAVE on Fri, 20 Dec 2013 00:30:15 +0000 (Likes: 4 / Dislikes: 0

DEWALT FAN


Mazon on Thu, 14 Nov 2013 09:58:45 +0000 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

22 mins is in optimum conditions, but when you take a warm battery from the tool it needs to cool down before taking in any charging, so it might take up to 60 min to get it charged. Also higher charging current will destroy the batteries faster.


chippy pete on Thu, 24 Oct 2013 17:43:15 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

i have had ten makita lxt 18v batts fail on me in the last six years including starred batts.
The main problem is using high power tools like the rip saw and jigsaw, the batteries just cant hack it.
The flaw is in the pcb linked to one cell, if that cell fails the battery is bricked, you try and recharge it three times in this condition it locks the battery, so repairs cannot be carried out.
I have now gone over to a good quality copy, no worse than makitas and 40% cheaper.
Good tools poor batteries.
I dont know if dewalt is any better, a mate had two lithium batts fail just out of warranty.


Peter Gray on Tue, 15 Oct 2013 18:58:36 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

Re would I buy a cordless version of the Multimaster - probably not, mostly use it for longish periods of sanding or sawing and need mains - having a 4m power cord makes a big difference. However, I would buy one if they offered a 3.0 Ah battery and if I was doing window restoration professionally.


Peter Gray on Tue, 15 Oct 2013 18:34:03 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

I can't comment on Makita cordless but I have had ten years use out of my Panasonic 15.6V with two batteries, it is still going with one battery replacement. I also have a Li-ion 14.4 / 3.3Ah Panasonic combi which is great, more expensive than Makita but well worth it so far.


Toolstop on Tue, 27 Aug 2013 14:54:23 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

Thanks for your comments Michel, a great testimonial for Makita Power Tools and Toolstop


Michel on Fri, 23 Aug 2013 21:46:08 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

Bonjour
Si vous avez des problèmes avec les batteries makita, makita vous les échange sans problèmes.
Je connais personne avec un tel soucis.
Makita c'est les meilleurs outils électroportatifs du monde, il y a environ 5 machines sur 1000 qui retourne au service après vente pour échange.
Longue vie à Makita et Toolstop !
Michel


mark sercombe on Wed, 14 Aug 2013 11:11:32 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

One downside of the 2 3ah batteries charging in the same time as one 4ah is that they are getting charged twice as much, shortening their lifespan? That said I'm currently using a brushless drill/driver and impact driver and very impressed with the runtime.


nrd on Sun, 11 Aug 2013 21:00:09 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

Same here, Ive sent more Makita batteries back than i care to mention. These things just will not last!!!
Also that is a terribly flawed argument, if i buy a 4.0Ah product 2 x 4.0 = 8.0. Still bigger than 6.0!

They are just fire fighting as they are late to the party, just you wait they will launch 4.0 and all of a sudden it will be the best thing ever!!!

When Makita first launched lithium I was hooked, as were others but the batteries are just not robust enough!

Im switching from them and Im sure im not the only one!?


KakeFin on Tue, 06 Aug 2013 09:00:48 +0100 (Likes: 7 / Dislikes: 0

The fat pack 3.0 Ah is charged in 22 mins. That's a fact.

If you don't know please do not comment.


ABR on Thu, 13 Jun 2013 07:48:51 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

The Makita charger can charge the battery in 22 minutes... That is, of course, the slim pack battery... Not the fat pack 3.0 amp/hr


ABR on Thu, 13 Jun 2013 07:46:54 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

Negative, el cap-i-tan... 4.0 batteries just have better lithium chemistry/quality. Makita uses cheap cells from Konion; buying better cells would raise the price point for them.


mycreativestreak on Sun, 24 Feb 2013 00:14:06 +0000 (Likes: 3 / Dislikes: 0

Makita's Star on the batteries - New chip monitoring is all about making the batteries last beyond the 12 month warranty time frame so that you can't make any claims after that time. And the new chip makes it easier for a faulty battery to have the faulty cell identified, diagnosed and replaced...


mycreativestreak on Sun, 24 Feb 2013 00:11:23 +0000 (Likes: 3 / Dislikes: 0

What is this guy going on about with Brushless Motors giving you "35% to Double the workload" I checked the UK official website for this Brushless motor performance claim and compared it to all the Makita official websites around the world.
Makita UK - "will last almost twice as long"

Makita AU - Impact Driver description is "High Performance"
2nd Impact Driver description is "specially designed to provide more work amount on a single full battery charge"
18V Rotary Hammer "Brushless DC motor helps to reduce energy loss by 30%"
18V Hammer Drill/Driver - no extra performance claims

Makita USA - Impact Driver & Rotary Hammer - "up to 50% longer run time per charge"
Makita CA - 4 brushless tools - "up to 50% longer run time"
Makita NL - "more productive and efficient than its predecessors" translated
Makita DE - " Brushless motor for more power with less wear and stamina" translated

If Makita can develop chargers the can charge 18V, 3.0Ah in 22mins, and 36V, 2.6Ah in 22mins why say 4.0Ah is about an hour, when it could be only 33% longer at 29-30 mins

Makita's Star on the batteries - New chip monitoring is all about making the batteries last


Joinerjames on Wed, 20 Feb 2013 20:15:58 +0000 (Likes: 12 / Dislikes: 0

These batteries are flawed. You need only have a quick look on the net to discover that a known fault that makita seem unwilling or incapable to fix causes a high percentage of them to fail prematurely . If they have been charged less than three hundred times, and the charger suddenly tells you the battery is broken, send it back to makita uk for a replacement ( even if it is out of warranty). If they have to replace enough of them free of charge they might actually be motivated to fix this problem. Same problem occurs with the newer " star" battery. Be warned


Jamesjoiner on Sat, 16 Feb 2013 18:02:49 +0000 (Likes: 6 / Dislikes: 0

Just sent back yet another battery to makita. It had a total of 86 charge cycles before the chip told the battery to lock up. This battery is the new type with the star on it, so makita have still not fixed this well documented problem. Perhaps the introduction of the new tools with stars will help, however the main culprits for bricking the batteries are the circular/ recip/ jigsaw - none of these have come out in the starred version yet. So even if I want to spend my cash replacing all my old makita tools for new , the option is not there. Makita make great cordless tools and badly flawed batteries. If they stop before 300 odd charges, send them back to makita for a new one ( even out of the year warranty). This does not apply if your battery has slowly gone downhill with lots of use or old age which is fair enough. If enough people do this, makita will be forced to sort out this problem or take a hit on profits ( currently buoyed up on battery replacement sales?). I used to recommend makita when asked. I can't do that now. I hope I can recommend them in the future but for the moment, go with Panasonic.


Henrik Enkel Larsson on Thu, 14 Feb 2013 23:03:29 +0000 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

I believe Makita's argument to use more efficient motors is valid for tools that are updated every once in a while. However, I would like to have higher capacity batteries for high power consuming tools as the drill hammer and the planer. If they ever come in brushless motor versions ( which I hardly doubt), my 3 Ah batteries are probably worn out and time to replace. The tool in itself I hope will still be ready for more work, and I most likely not replace it.


Marccus on Thu, 14 Feb 2013 21:28:57 +0000 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 1

4ah equals 30% more weight change and charge the battery


samuel zambaldi on Thu, 14 Feb 2013 19:46:50 +0000 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

bonjour
j'aimerai plustot que Makita nous fabrique des bateries que durent plus d'un an. En effet les bateries LTX 3A 18v ne tiennent pas plus d'une année d'utilisation professionnelle. Tous mes colègues ont eu le même problème, et vous? J'ai un stock de 4 bateries datant de l'année dernière... samuel zambaldi


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