The best part about cordless drills is well, they are cordless! The worst part of them is that they have limited battery life.
There are different types of battery packs for different tools. There are different voltages and different capacities (mAh or Ah). The ampere-hours (labeled Ah) denote the maximum amount of charge the battery can store at a given time. This, in turn, determines how long you can operate the drill or other power tool with the particular battery pack.
Rechargeable batteries for power tools generally contain cells with a voltage of 1.2V, 1.5V or 3.6V. Manufacturers utilize these cells to produce batteries that can have a voltage of anywhere between 3.6V and 48V. The main difference between 12v, 18v, and 20v tools is their power; the higher the voltage of the tool typically the more powerful it can be. High voltage in a power tool usually translates to higher torque. Usually a 12v tool has less power compared to the same type 18 and 20-volt tools. Theoretically, the higher voltage doesn’t mean more power in and of itself, and there are other features besides voltage that affect the power available from tool. So, is higher voltage better for cordless tools? It depends on the task you’re using the tool for. If you want something with more torque for a tougher job, then a higher voltage is a better solution. However, lower some voltage offers superb energy savings compared to some more powerful higher voltage tools. Power tools that come with a high voltage typically cost a lot more money than tools with a low voltage and are usually heavier.
Batteries that have a voltage between 3.6V and 12V are generally designed in light duty tools, such as cordless screwdrivers and small cordless drill drivers. Batteries that have a voltage between 14.4V and 36V are manufactured for use on heavier duty tools such as cordless hammer drill drivers, cordless angle grinders, and cordless circular saws. The most common voltage nowadays used amongst manufacturers (due to its weight, cost, and potential power output) is 18V or 20V.
But there are various other factors that determine the overall functionality of a rechargeable battery. The type of materials used to make the battery and the underlying principle of how it powers up the tool play also play a major role. The most common battery chemistries are NiCd, NiMH, and Lithium. NiCd is the oldest battery type of those, and it no longer used within EU because there is a law banning the toxic substance cadmium from portable batteries. Newer NiMH batteries can have two to three times the capacity of NiCd batteries of the same size, with significantly higher energy density.
Most power tools manufacturers boast of using a Lithium (Li) ion battery to power their cordless drills. Lithium (Li) provides the highest energy storage capacity and the batteries will hold the charge for a long time when not used. Lithium batteries can be extremely lightweight and can have compact size. They hold a high amount of energy. There disadvantages of the Lithium batteries are that they can be damaged by heat and impact and that they are relatively more expensive than other batteries.
So, are cordless drill batteries and chargers interchangeable? The answer depends on the types of batteries, the drill model and manufacturer, and the overall power specifications of the two items being swapped. Typically the cordless drill batteries from two different brands are not normally interchangeable. But batteries of a particular brand can often be used interchangeably on some different drills or other tools of the same brand. Trying to interchange cordless drill batteries or using a charger from a different brand can easily damage these power tools, and they are typically made mechanically incompatible so user can’t fit in “wrong type” battery.
The non-compatibility of a battery pack with the drill of an alternative brand is what enables manufacturers to stay profitable in the long run! Companies intentionally design their batteries in a way that they cannot work with drills produced by a competitor brand. So if the battery pack goes bad and they want to continue to use their tool, they need to buy a new expensive battery pack the manufacturer sell. Also the users that have already many batteries and tools from one brand, want to buy their new tools from the same brand so that they can use their existing batteries with them. This ensures that customers will keep coming back as their drill batteries reach the end of their lifespan and they have to buy new ones, or they need an extra set to power their drills for extensive projects. Moreover, the lack of battery compatibility across different brands also helps companies ward off warranty claims (you are likely to notice something along the lines that the use of third party products will void the warranty on the said tool). Most rechargeable batteries for cordless drills have an average lifespan of three years to five years.
When the cordless power tools have been brand specific earlier, now it seems that there is some standardization coming to power tools. Power or All Alliance and Cordless Alliance System have developed standards for cross-manufacturer cordless freedom where same battery works with many brands of tools. They promise that now you can combine machines, battery packs and chargers of different manufacturer with each other without any problems.
Cordless Alliance System (CAS) is a cross-manufacturer battery pack system of leading power tool brands. It promises 100% compatibility for over 280 machines in the 18 V class! The focus is on 18V the most important application range for professional users. This battery alliance originated from Metabo batteries. The brands in this alliance include Metabo, Mafell, Rothenberger, Callomix, Eibenstock, Eisenlätter, Haaga, Starmix, Steinel, Rokamat, Birchmeier, Edding, Fischer, Prebena, Cembre, Pressfit, Jöst, Trumpf, Gesipa, Montipower, Scangrip, Baier, ITH, Cemo and Spewe.
Power or All Alliance says to be one of the largest cross-brand 18V battery systems. It promises to provide THE battery for your home and garden. Their vision is to provide our users with ONE battery that can be used for all use cases in and around the home. One and the same 18V battery within the POWER FOR ALL ALLIANCE is 100% compatible with all 18V appliances of the brands Bosch Home & Garden, GARDENA, Bosch Home Appliances, GLORIA House and Garden, Wagner, Flymo, Steinel and Rapid.
There is also 20V MAX POWERCONNECT battery system used by several manufacturers. For example Black+Decker, Dewalt, Bosch and Nilfisk support this battery system. Power a range of BLACK+DECKER power tools, vacuums, and lawn + garden equipment using the same interchangeable batteries and chargers in the 20V MAX* POWERCONNECT™ Battery System.
LIDL sells a quite large selection of tools that use Parkside X 20V team battery system. I have reviewed this system at my Parkside X20V Team battery packs from LIDL posting. This is not an official multi manufacturer standard, but according to discussion the same type of batteries are used also by some other brands like aeg. Parkside Performance series is a newer series with better motor and longer-lasting battery than with Parkside X20V Team series but is not compatible with it.
USB Type-C was intended to be the universal connector for almost all data and charging needs. It’s slowly replacing countless types of proprietary chargers is making its way to power tools. Two companies have announced batteries and tools with the connector: Ryobi has announced a new “USB Lithium” series of tools (based on a new 4V Max/3.6V Li-ion battery) and DeWalt is also jumping onto the USB Type-C train.
Ryobi has announced a new “USB Lithium” series of tools, all using the same 2.0Ah removable battery with a USB Type-C port for charging. That means you don’t need to have a custom dock to charge up the batteries.