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Is a Petrol RC Car Faster Than Electric?

If you want to know if a Petrol car is faster than electric keep reading. Also, learn what is the fastest RC car type overall and exactly what petrol cars run on.

Is a Petrol RC Car Faster Than Electric?

For short bursts of speed and quick acceleration, electric RC cars often are faster. However, for sustained speed and longer run times, petrol might still hold a slight advantage.

The Mechanics:

Petrol (Nitro) RC Cars:

Petrol RC cars are powered by internal combustion engines that use a mixture of nitromethane, methanol, and oil. This setup provides a distinct roar that many enthusiasts love.

Electric RC Cars:

Electric RC cars are powered by rechargeable batteries and electric motors. Advances in battery technology, especially the widespread use of lithium-polymer (LiPo) and lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries have led to significant improvements in the performance of electric RC cars.

Performance Analysis:


Electric motors are known for providing instant torque from a standstill. This means that electric RC cars generally have faster initial acceleration compared to their petrol counterparts.

Top Speed:

Historically, petrol RC cars were faster in terms of top speed. The larger engines and prolonged fuel burning could push the cars to impressive speeds.

However, as battery and motor technology have advanced, electric RC cars have begun to match, and in some instances, surpass the top speeds of petrol RC cars.


Petrol RC cars have the advantage of longer run times. You can refuel a petrol car in a matter of seconds and get back on the track. Electric cars, on the other hand, need to have their batteries swapped out or charged, which can take considerably longer.

The Variables:


Electric motors and batteries can often be lighter than a petrol engine and its required fuel tank. This weight difference can affect speed, especially in terms of acceleration.


Petrol engines require more maintenance. They can be finicky and need regular tune-ups. Electric cars, with fewer moving parts, typically require less maintenance. A well-maintained vehicle (whether electric or petrol) tends to perform better.

Technological Advancements:

Electric RC technology has been advancing rapidly. Brushless motors and high-capacity LiPo batteries have significantly improved the performance of electric RC cars. This makes the speed competition between the two types closer than ever.

What is the fastest type of RC car?

Currently, the fastest type of RC car is electric cars. For example, models like the Traxxas XO-1, currently hold the crown in commercial models. But, nitro cars are not far behind.

The Evolution of Speed in RC Cars

The speed of RC cars has consistently increased over the years. In the early days, a top speed of 20mph was considered rapid for an RC car. Fast forward to today, and many high-end models effortlessly breach the 100mph mark.

Categories of RC Cars

RC cars are categorized based on scale, power source, and terrain:

  • Scale: Ranging from 1/24 to 1/5, with 1/5 scale being the largest and often the fastest.
  • Power Source: Electric (battery-powered) and Nitro (internal combustion engine).
  • Terrain: On-road and off-road.

The Speed Contenders

Electric RC Cars:


Electric cars are generally more straightforward to maintain. They offer instant torque, resulting in rapid acceleration.

Battery technology advancements, particularly LiPo (Lithium Polymer) batteries, have significantly improved speed and run time.


Top speed might be limited by battery voltage and motor capabilities.

Fastest Electric RC Car: As of my last research, the Traxxas XO-1 claims a top speed of over 100mph, making it one of the fastest commercially available electric RC cars.

Nitro RC Cars:


Nitro cars can run for longer durations, limited only by fuel supply. They offer a realistic engine sound and can be refueled quickly.


Requires more maintenance compared to electric models. Speed might sometimes be inconsistent due to engine tuning and temperature fluctuations.

Fastest Nitro RC Car: Models from brands like HPI and Traxxas have nitro cars that can reach speeds close to 80mph.

The Record Breakers

When discussing the absolute fastest, we can’t ignore custom-built RC cars designed specifically to break records. The fastest record-breaking RC car was clocked at over 200mph. These vehicles, however, are often one-off designs and are not commercially available.

Factors Influencing Speed

  • Aerodynamics: Streamlined designs reduce drag, enabling higher speeds.
  • Weight: Lighter cars tend to be faster but might sacrifice some stability.
  • Tires: Depending on the terrain, the right tire can make a significant difference in speed.
  • Upgrades: Hobbyists often upgrade motors, batteries, or engines to squeeze out extra speed.

What do petrol RC cars run on?

Petrol fuel pump.
Petrol fuel pump.

Their fuel is a mix of standard gasoline and 2-stroke oil. This is both easily accessible and cost-effective.

Petrol RC Cars: The Basics

Petrol RC cars, often referred to as “gasoline-powered” or simply “gas” RC cars, operate using a combination of petrol (gasoline) and oil, much like many full-sized automobiles. These cars are typically larger than their electric or nitro counterparts, often being 1/5th scale or bigger.

Fuel Composition

Petrol (Gasoline):

The primary component is, of course, petrol. This is the same gasoline you’d purchase at a petrol station for a standard car. It provides the necessary combustion to power the engine and propel the RC car.


Along with petrol, a mix of 2-stroke oil is required. This oil acts as a lubricant for the engine parts, preventing wear and ensuring the engine runs smoothly. The typical ratio is about 25:1 or 40:1, meaning for every 25 or 40 parts of petrol, there’s 1 part of 2-stroke oil. However, this ratio can vary based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and specific engine requirements.

Why Petrol Over Other Fuels?

  • Longer Run Times: Petrol tanks in RC cars can be larger, and gasoline tends to provide longer run times compared to nitro fuel. This means more fun time and less refueling.
  • Cost-Effective: Over the long run, gasoline can be more cost-effective than nitro fuel, especially considering that it’s widely available at petrol stations.
  • Realistic Sound and Feel: For many hobbyists, the roar of a gasoline engine offers a more authentic experience compared to electric or nitro-powered cars.

Differences from Nitro Fuel

While both petrol and nitro fuels are combustible and power internal combustion engines, they’re quite different in composition and usage:

  • Composition: Nitro fuel is typically a mix of nitromethane, methanol, and lubricating oil. Petrol, on the other hand, is primarily hydrocarbons.
  • Performance: While nitro RC cars can be very powerful and offer rapid accelerations, petrol RC cars tend to have a more sustained power output and longer run times.
  • Maintenance: Petrol engines are generally easier to maintain than nitro engines. They tend to be less finicky and more resilient to different conditions.
  • Cost: As mentioned earlier, petrol is usually cheaper than nitro fuel in the long run, making it a preferred choice for many hobbyists.