New 18V batteries from Ryobi extend the functionality of the ONE+ system
Ryobi manufactures a wide range of power tools geared to the consumer market. I’ve used a number of Ryobi tools over the past decade, and consider them to provide good value to DIYers and hobbyist woodworkers.
Ryobi has introduced four new Lithium-ion batteries in their ONE+ line-up. There is also a ONE+ NiCd battery available. NiCds are a rare bird today, in part because Lithium-ion batteries offer a much better energy to weight ratio. One of the major problems with NiCds is that they degrade in performance if left idle for any length of time on a full charge. Lithium-ions will self-discharge also, but at a much slower rate. You can expect these Lithium-ion batteries to hold their charge four times longer than a NiCd battery, and deliver full power until the end of their charge. Still, some tradespeople prefer NiCds when working in very cold temperatures, as they can be recharged below freezing, unlike Lithium-ion batteries.
Ryobi was one of the first companies to integrate it’s battery system with it’s power tool portfolio so that any Ryobi battery could be used in any Ryobi tool. This is the genesis of Ryobi’s ONE+ system, which has been around since 2005. All the batteries that form part of the ONE+ system are 18V. What I like about this system is that you can use any Ryobi battery that is labelled ONE+, whether NiCd or Lithium-ion, with any of its over 50 One+ power tools. And, their dual chemistry chargers will charge any ONE+ battery. What’s nice about this charger is that you can safely store a battery on the charger without the risk of damaging the battery cells.
While you can purchase Ryobi power tools in a kit format that contains the tool, charger and battery, most of the tools are also available as ‘bare tools’ – that is, sold without battery or charger – making them more cost-effective for consumers. Sharing batteries among several power tools is easy enough, and you only have to buy additional batteries when you need them. Besides, how many chargers does a person need?
Ryobi refers to the P102 and P105 batteries as “Lithium” batteries, and the P107 and P108 batteries as “Lithium+” batteries. While you can visually tell these two sets of batteries apart (the + batteries come in Ryobi’s yellow-green colour scheme). there are three important differences between them. The Lithium+ batteries offer better performance (longer run time); they have convenient on-board fuel gauges that enable you to check the charge status at any time; and, they are designed for extreme weather performance.
As with most lithium batteries, Ryobi’s P102 and P105 batteries experience decreased performance in extreme cold temperatures. For example, if you left them in your truck overnight, and then plugged them into the tool in the morning, it would seem they had no charge – you would have to warm them up before using them. Also, extreme cold weather will decrease the battery runtime. However, the P107 and P108 batteries are designed to better withstand sub-zero temperatures.
The real difference between these batteries lies in the amount of energy they deliver. The more energy a battery can store, the longer the battery can be run before you need to recharge it – and the more work you can get done. Battery energy is rated two ways. The amp-hour (Ah) rating is probably the most commonly used indicator of battery power. It lets you know how much energy is available. The higher the Ah rating, the more energy the battery will have on hand. The watt-hour (Wh) rating is a more accurate measurement of the amount of energy in the battery, because it includes both voltage level and current draw during the discharge of the battery.
When comparing NiCd and Lithium-ion batteries bear in mind that the relationship between battery capacity and runtime isn’t purely linear. Lithium-ion battery cells are much more efficient than Ni-Cd cells, so they will last longer under load. The simple test that I did confirmed this, as the P102, with a 1.3Ah rating, drilled almost 39% more holes than the P100, which has a 1.5Ah rating.
To compare the performance of these batteries I fully charged each battery, and then, using a Ryobi P208B drill/driver equipped with a Bosch 1″ Daredevil spade bit, drilled holes through 1-1/2″ dimensional lumber. I installed a new bit for each battery. As well, I avoided drilling through large knots (primarily to prevent damage to the bits).
The P100 drill 29-1/2 holes before the battery ground to a halt. The P102 drilled 41 holes (or 38.9% more). The P105, which has twice the Ah rating as the P102, drilled 122 holes (313% more than the P100 – and 197% more than the P102).
The P107 has only marginally more storage capacity (1.5Ah) than the P102 (1.2Ah), but was able to drill 68-1/2 holes (132% more than the P100, and 67% more than the P102). At only $10 more than the P102, the P107 is by far the the more economical of the these two compact batteries.
Finally, the big brute P108. It drilled a whopping 442% more holes than the P100, and 31% more than the P105. For anyone opting for a high capacity battery, this is definitely the one to choose.
For the average DIYer or woodworking hobbyist, I can’t see any reason to purchase a Ni-Cd battery. The choice of which Lithium-ion battery to purchase will depend on the type of work you do, how frequently you use your power tools, and how much money you’re willing to spend. I find the price differential between the Ryobi ‘Lithium’ (P102, P105) and Lithium+ (P107, P108) to be marginal, and would definitely opt of the Lithium+ batteries (in large part because I really like the on-board fuel gauges). But I think you’ll be darn pleased with any of these Lithium-ion batteries.