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

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

Posted by Toolstop Katy on 4th Aug 2013

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 the market with their own interpretation of a higher capacity lithium-ion battery.

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.

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