Power tool batteries are some of the densest lithium-ion packs around your home (or construction site), but they rarely play well with the kinds of chargers and batteries that charge your laptop, phone, and PC. That may be about to change — Ryobi and DeWalt are testing the waters with USB-C powered battery options, and one of them seems seriously neat.
It’s easy to argue that Ryobi took the idea the furthest; if Gizmodo reports today, it’s the first major manufacturer to tape a USB-C charging port to the battery itself, so you can use the same charger to charge your power tools as you would on a laptop.
But these 4V 2Ah batteries look a little weak to me – they are not compatible with existing tools, nor are they remotely powerful enough for the 18-20V power tools that dominate the market today. Instead, you’ll need to buy a new “Ryobi USB Lithium” range of tools with about the power of a cordless Dremel.
So let’s talk about something more exciting: Both Ryobi and DeWalt are also releasing snap-on USB-C adapters this spring that let you charge not only their 18V (Ryobi) and 20/60V (DeWalt) batteries with a USB-C cable, but also turn those batteries into a portable power source for your laptop and tablet.
And that’s where it looks like DeWalt might have an upside — the $99 20V Max USB Charger/Adapter (DCB094K), which hits stores in March, will come with a two-way 100W USB-C PD port, so you can charge the batteries (or your laptop) at the fastest speed USB can deliver.
DeWalt battery product manager Sean Fitzgibbons tells me the kit works with literally any of the company’s 20V or FlexVolt batteries, and it can turn them all into a 20-volt, 5 amp (100 watt) charger for your compatible Laptop.
And while you shouldn’t expect to fill an entire laptop with one of the 1.3Ah or 1.5Ah batteries that come with the company’s impact drivers, he points out that the popular 5Ah DCB205 battery from the company has a capacity of 100 watt-hours. Add this adapter and the 1.4 pound pack is theoretically capable of filling the largest laptop batteries on the market. (Laptops are generally limited to 100Wh batteries because in many countries you can’t get on a plane with larger ones; you’ll probably lose some juice too due to transfer losses.)
That battery isn’t DeWalt’s highest capacity either: They come in 6Ah, 9Ah, 12Ah, and you can even pay $379 these days for a monstrous 15Ah/300Wh battery pack that could charge a 16-inch MacBook Pro three times, if not for transfer losses.
“I think we’ve had sleepy success here because we’ve designed to the threshold of what’s defined in that USB standard itself,” Fitzgibbons says, saying he expects them to be popular on USB-C powered job boards. laptops and tablets, and perhaps people who drive cars with USB-C ports. “It gives you a solution for a car charger, now you have your batteries charged on the go.”
While USB-C PD may not be the absolute fastest way to charge your DeWalt batteries, it may well be faster than the chargers that come with DeWalt’s lighter power tools—just a handful of DeWalt chargers will hold 5 or more amps in a battery at one time. “It can recharge most of the batteries we have in about an hour,” he says.
The only weird thing is that DeWalt ships it with a 65W adapter, not a 100W adapter, so you may need to provide your own charger for the fastest speeds. It comes with a braided 100W USB-C to USB-C cable, though, so hopefully you should be covered on the battery front to the laptop.
As I mentioned, Ryobi is also working on a gadget like this, also slated for spring, and the 18V One+ 150 Watt Power Source even has some nice features like a three-prong outlet, built-in light, and a pair of USB-A ports. But it skimps on the most important thing: The USB-C charging port is limited to just 30W, less than a third of DeWalt’s. (And while Milwaukee also has a gadget with a 45W USB-C port, it’s only exits energy; it can’t charge your power tool’s batteries to start.)
While these might be useful for people who already own a ton of power tools and batteries, the bigger question is when will we start seeing USB charging ports in batteries — and DeWalt’s Fitzgibbons isn’t ready to make any promises there. “For construction sites, I think it’s only recently that people are using these USB-powered electronics,” he says. “We don’t want to create a situation where… it would obviously cost you to integrate that kind of technology directly into a battery, and what we don’t want is to force everyone to pay what it would cost extra when it’s a feature they want.” Do not need.”
He says the DCB094 could serve as a test of sorts. “If we get the interest I expect to get, I think that would open the door a lot more to potentially adding that directly to batteries.”