Brushless motor technology has been the rage in cordless power tools the last couple of years. Every major manufacturer now sells a brushless lineup of tools, but is it worth it for you?
Brushless motors aren’t new to power tools, but after Makita, DeWalt and Milwaukee launched full-blown lineups of tools with powerful battery platforms to match, the race was on.
The ToolGuyd has a great primer on the structural difference between a brushed and brushless motor. In a tool with a brushless motor, the motor adjusts according to the task. The more resistance a drill or saw senses, the more power it draws, and conversely a lack of resistance lessens the pull. This is a huge advancement when it comes managing battery life, which ups runtime and increases the performance of cordless power tools. A standard brushed motor will always max out on whatever speed it’s set at.
A brushless motor also does not have the friction or voltage drop that a standard motor deals with, which will increase the life of the motor and overall performance.
With so many benefits, why don’t all cordless tools switch to brushless motors? Cost.
There is currently an added cost to the design and construction of the tool due motor size and advanced electronics that are required to manage the motor properly. Brushless tools are roughly 30% more expensive than standard lithium-ion cordless tools, which make them more appealing to the trades and professionals who work with their tools everyday and need to maximize their performance on every job. Unlike a weekend DIYer who only fires up the drill as needed and won’t gain anything more than the badge on the tool.
High performance (and costly) lithium-ion batteries are also recommended to drive brushless power tools as they are specifically matched to support the demands of these motors. The Milwaukee Tool M18 Fuel and DeWalt 20V Max XR battery platforms are examples of this.
There are many top performing standard brushed cordless tools available, and it’s unlikely you’ll notice a difference between them and a brushless tool when it comes to jobs around the home. But stick to a lithium-ion battery as opposed to NiCd. The smaller size and lighter weight of lithium-ion batteries is well worth the higher cost.