Milwaukee M18 vs M18 Fuel: What’s The Difference?

Milwaukee is one of the most popular names in power tools. Since 2012, they’ve launched a new line of power tools called FUEL, which are slightly different from their regular set of products. Milwaukee’s M18 line of tools uses 18V batteries instead of 12V batteries for greater power and longevity. So what’s the difference between M18 vs M18 FUEL?

That’s what we’ll be looking at in this post.

Milwaukee M18 vs M18 Fuel

The main difference between Milwaukee M18 and M18 FUEL is that all M18 FUEL models have brushless motors, whereas only some M18 models have brushless motors. The rest have brushed motors.

M18 FUEL tools have three main benefits:

  • PowerState brushless motor for superior power and performance
  • REDLITHIUM batteries for greater efficiency
  • Smart REDLINK Plus system that communicates between hardware and software to control how much power is drawn from the battery

The PowerState brushless motors are designed to work with the REDLithium batteries to eke out every last ounce of performance.

This combination of features makes the FUEL line have a lot more torque and drive compared to the other tools made by Milwaukee.

Milwaukee also upgraded the FUEL line in terms of design and ergonomics. The overall design is very compact and much easier to maneuver in tight spaces.

That’s not to say that the regular M18 lineup isn’t any good. Those tools still hold their own and are superb for the job, but if you’re a professional looking for that small extra bit of performance, the FUEL line will not disappoint.


Is it possible to use M18 batteries in M18 FUEL?

M18 batteries can be used in both M18 and M18 FUEL models. However, M18 FUEL’s special REDLithium battery packs will give far greater longevity and life than the regular M18 batteries.

What’s so special about brushless motors?

We mentioned above that Milwaukee M18 FUEL uses only brushless motors. So what makes brushless motors so special, and what’s all the hullaballoo?

There are two main types of motors: brushed and brushless. Brushed motors have little brushes that make contact with the core of the motor and provide alternating forces to keep the motor spinning. Brushed motors work fine, but because the brushes are always in contact, it generates a lot of friction.

Friction will eventually wear the brushes down, reducing the efficiency of the motor. It also generates a lot of heat.

Brushless motors have a separate inner ring and outer ring. The inner ring has multiple coils of wire to create a magnetic field when a current passes through them. The bell(outer ring) of the motor has magnets on the inside which are repelled by the magnetic field and turn. There’s no friction or heat in a brushless motor, and it can run on and on at cool temperatures.

As we mentioned above, all the M18 FUEL models have brushless motors, and only some M18 only models have brushless motors. Even then, the M18 FUEL models have four times more powerful brushless motors than the regular M18 models.

We found this figure to be quite consistent in our tests as well, especially in tools such as impact drivers, impact wrenches, circular saws, and hackzalls.

Advantages of brushless motors

Less maintenance

Because brushless motors have fewer overall parts, there is less maintenance required on a brushless motor. In a brushed motor, you have a lot of friction and heat, which results in parts quickly wearing down and needing maintenance and replacement.

Fewer vibrations

Another advantage of brushless motors is that there are fewer vibrations at all speeds, which means your arm won’t get tired as quickly and you’ll have greater control over the work you’re doing.

Capacity for greater speed

Since there is no friction to lose energy with, brushless motors are able to spin much faster than brushed motors. So if you need more power and more speed, brushless motors will always outperform their brushed counterparts.

Less heat

We mentioned above that brushless motors can spin on and on without generating heat, but that was only if there is no load. As you increase the load on a motor, there will be some heat generated due to the added electrical energy pulled by the motor. However, brushless motors will heat up significantly less than brushed motors under the same load.

Less hazardous

If you remember old-school drills, you may have seen sparks fly out of the motor as the drill turned. This was caused by the friction generated between the brushes and the core of the motor. Although sparks were minimal, they still pose a safety hazard if there’s a lot of sawdust or easily flammable things nearby.

Milwaukee M18 Overview

Milwaukee’s M18 line is a newer version of their original M12 line. The main difference was the larger 18V lithium-ion battery in the M18 series over the 12V battery in the M12 series.

Overall, Milwaukee tools are quite durable and professional-grade.

Milwaukee M18 FUEL Overview

Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL line are a step above the M18 line and offer greater performance, vibration reduction, and protection from the elements.

You can use the same batteries as the M18 in your M18 FUEL tools, but if you can pick up the dedicated REDLITHIUM packs that are designed especially for the M18 FUEL tools, you’ll get even better performance.

Related: Milwaukee vs DeWalt

Fuel vs Non-Fuel: Final thoughts

If you have the added budget, definitely consider getting the FUEL line instead of the regular M18 tools. The added features give you that extra edge to make your work much easier.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Milwaukee 2804-20 M18 FUEL 1/2 in. Hammer Drill (Tool Only) Tool-Peak Torque = 1,200
  • Power state Brushless motor: purposely built for the M18 Fuel 1/2" Drill driver to provide up to 60% more power than the competitive set
  • Redlink Plus Intelligence: ensures optimal performance and provides overload protection to prevent damage to the tool and battery during heavy applications while still maintaining compatibility across the entire M18 system.
  • Red Lithium XC5.0 battery pack: delivers more work per charge and more work over the life of the pack than competitors
  • Up to 60% more power: 1, 200 in-lbs of torque
Bestseller No. 3
Milwaukee 2719-20 M18 FUEL Hackzall (Bare Tool), Red, Black,
  • POWERSTATE Brushless Motor: Increased cutting speed and power throught the toughtest applications
  • REDLINK Plus Intelligence: The most advanced system of cordless power tool electronics; provides optimized performance and overload protection using total sysem communication between tool, battery and charger
  • REDLITHIUM battery technology: Superior pack construction, electronics and performance deliver more work per charge and more work over pack life than any battery on the market
  • 1-Handed design provides superior control and versatitily over standard reciprocating saws
  • 7/8 in. stroke length removes more material with each stroke resulting in the faster cuts

This is especially true if you’re working in a professional or semi-professional environment.

If your budget is tight, then the M18 line will also deliver solid results.

Bestseller No. 1
Bestseller No. 2
Milwaukee 48-11-1852 M18 REDLITHIUM XC 5.0 Ah Extended Capacity Battery (2 pack)
  • REDLINK Intelligence: provides optimized performance and overload protection using total system communication between tool, battery and charger
  • offers long-lasting performance and durability
  • Fuel gauge Onboard: displays remaining runtime for less downtime on the job
  • All-weather performance: delivers fade free power in extreme jobsite conditions
  • Versatility: powers more than 60 Milwaukee M18 cordless power tools
Bestseller No. 3
Milwaukee 48-11-1850 M18 Redlithium 5.0Ah Bat Pack
  • REDLINK Intelligence: Provides optimized performance and overload protection using total system communication between tool, battery and charger
  • Fuel gauge onboard: Displays remaining runtime for less downtime on the job
  • M18 red Lithium 5.0Ah Bat pack
  • The product is easy to use and easy to handle
  • The product is highly durable