Would you agree that choosing the right power source for your RC car is critical? Me too, for that reason I am going to compare the two options you have, and look at the good, the bad and the ugly.
What is the difference between an electric and Nitro RC car? An electric RC car is powered by batteries, while a Nitro is powered by fuel. For this reason, plastic is used as for a chassis for an electric engine while Nitro engines have chassis made of lightweight metal. The Nitro car gives the raw exciting feel and sound of a race car, whereas an electric car is easier to maintain.
Selecting the best RC Car (Click to see the best 7 cars) is not just a matter of physical appearance. If you don’t want to regret it after making your decision, there are a lot of other features to consider. Let’s have a look now.
Nitro or Electric RC Car – What to look for in each?
Both Nitro and electric cars look very much alike. However, there are key differences that differentiate between them, such as how they are powered and the speeds they can achieve, more on this in this article below.
Motors and Engines
Nitro RC Cars
Nitro cars run on fuel and the engine is made up of some of the most complicated components. Among these components include flywheels, crankshafts, carburettors (Click here to learn how to clean it), glow plugs, air filters and pistons. This is similar to a gasoline powered truck or a car.
Nitro cars use fuel that contains nitromethane rather than gasoline. A complete fuel system including a proper exhaust system for the car and a fuel tank is also present.
A Nitro engine is considered more efficient than an electric engine, mainly due to the reason that it has the ability to circulate heat in a more efficient manner. The heat is dissipated from the engine by means of a head heat sink.
With the nitro engine, there are different ways of temperature regulation, the temperature can be regulated by tuning a carburettor. Temperature regulation is done using the process of “leaning” or “richening”. This is simply increasing or decreasing the amount of fuel that is mixed with the air.
In comparison to electric motors, the nitro RC engines provide an advantage in terms of controlling the temperature of the engine by dispersing heat through regulating the mixture of air and fuel.
Electric RC Cars
Electric RC cars use the battery as their power source. Electric cars offer two types of engine, brushed and brushless among which the most popular option is the brushless motor. If you want to know something more about the brushed and brushless motors, keep reading.
The beginner hobby grade RCs and toy-grade RCs generally use only one kind of motor that is the brushed electric motor. Despite the fact that the brushless motor is now readily available, these RCs still supply them.
There are both fixed as well as non-fixed versions of brushed engines. The non-fixed electric motors consist of the brushes that can be replaced.
The motor, on the whole, in this way can be modified. The non-fixed electric motor can also be tuned and the debris and dust accumulated while using the motor can also be cleaned to a certain degree. On the other hand, the fixed version cannot be tuned or modified.
Within the RC hobby world, the popularity of brushless motors is observed to be increased. The increasing popularity has made these brushless electric motors become the norm in professional RC racing, despite the fact that, in comparison to the brushed electric motors, they are slightly higher in price.
So what is the real appeal for brushless motors? It is the sheer power advantage that it has over brushless motors.
When compared with the brushed electric motors, as there are no contact brushes, there is no need to clean them on a frequent basis. Besides this, the reduced heat and friction make its performance a killer.
The brushless motor, on the other hand, has the ability to handle a higher voltage. In this way, blistering speed is provided to the beginners as a result of the supply of a higher voltage. It is an important thing to note that the fastest speed records for an RC car coincidentally is equipped with a brushless electric motor.
Chassis, for a vehicle such as a car, can be considered as a basic frame upon which the other internal parts are located. The chassis is typically made up of aluminium or plastic.
The engine for a Nitro RC car is generally made up of a lightweight metal called aluminum. Metal chassis is preferred for Nitro engines, mainly due to the fact that a lot of heat is generated by them.
If plastic is used, it would melt. Aluminium has efficient heat reducing properties. Also it is a heat dissipater. Besides this, the engine is kept cool as it is mounted on the aluminium motor.
Electric cars come in two types of chassis that include both plastic and metal. As discussed, plastic is not an ideal option for nitro as it emits a lot of heat. So a metal chassis is preferred.
An electric RC, on the other hand, is made up of both normal-grade and high-grade plastic as they are more suitable. Carbon fiber components are generally preferred for hobby-grade RCs, as they provide an overall efficient performance.
The other components attached are also made of the carbon fiber. Another important feature associated with carbon fiber chassis is that it, when used, decreases the weight of the vehicle and at the same time provides great strength.
The drivetrain involves the gear (Click here to see what to do if your RC Car Input Cup is Wearing Out), wheels and axels of a device and its function is to provide the motion to the RC car on the application of power.
Almost all of the metal differentials including the metal gears make up the drivetrain for nitro RC car. The metal drivetrain is preferred for nitro cars because they are powerful and generate higher torque.
Plastic parts, on the other hand, can be severely affected by too much stress exerted on them. Plastic parts may also be found in the drivetrain of some nitro RCs. However, in comparison to the metal parts, they are less durable.
The drivetrains of electric RC cars mostly consists of parts made up of plastic. Usually seen more in toy-grade electric RC cars. On the other hand, the hobby-grade electric RC cars usually consist of both plastic and metal parts.
The metal part is often a pinion gear. However, in order to boost the electric RC (hobby-grade) in strength as well as longevity, the drivetrain may be upgraded to complete metal.
Nitro or Electric RC Car – What is faster?
In order to develop an understanding of how fast a car can go, it is necessary to understand the features and variables that contribute to its inner workings. Among all the other variables is the first one, brushed or brushless motor.
The general workings of both brushed and brushless motors are pretty much the same. The brushless motor are generally 10-15% more efficient and one of the main reasons they are so much more popular.
The batteries can also be used to differentiate between the speeds. The LiPo and NiMH batteries are generally used in RC cars. These lithium polymer batteries have a larger energy density and a higher discharge rate.
Meaning the vehicles consisting of these lithium polymer batteries are able to provide more power to the motors. It, however, is necessary to check if the car is compatible with the type of battery and the voltage of the battery you desire.
Nitro cars are deemed as quite thrilling for petrol heads, as the engine revs up to 40,000 rpm. However, when it actually comes to top speed and torque, an electric RC car is definitely the best option.
The fastest RC car is an electric car that offers a speed of about 136 mph. Nitro cars may be more complex but electric cars are much simpler. In comparison to Nitro, more and more electric vehicles can be seen just because of the reason that they provide faster speed.
Considering this, it can be said that electric cars have the ability to offer you a thrilling experience that you have always wished for.
Pros of Nitro vs. Pros of Electric RC Cars
Nitro RC Cars
Nitro cars have their own advantages that make them the most suitable option for you. These cars have proved to be an ideal option for both the intermediate as well as advanced users, including the experienced hobbyists.
Tuning the engine of a nitro car requires skills from the user. So, most hobbyists, especially the experienced ones, enjoy fine-tuning the engine, as they have the necessary skills that are required for it.
There are many ways to start a nitro engine but only true fans can understand and master all of them. Besides this, as discussed earlier, the loud sound of the engine of a Nitro car is enough to make your experience more thrilling and exciting.
The loud sound of the engine is capable enough to enhance the level of excitement when the cars speed up on the track. The car has a longer run-time, based on its fuel-based power.
On average, you can expect to drive the car for about 30 to 45 minutes, before refilling. All you need to do is to fill the gas and get yourself ready for another thrilling experience. This is great because you don’t have to charge and wait to race again.
Another exciting feature is these cars produce fumes out of their exhaust as well as a roaring, earth shattering sound of acceleration, creating a lifelike driving experience.
The nitro cars, in comparison to electric cars, also have the ability to run for a longer period of time. These are some of the reasons that make avid racers prefer nitro cars over electric cars.
Electric RC Cars
Electric cars, on the other hand, does not require any major kind of tuning. Also, it is simpler to run and does not include tedious, frustrating and time-consuming setup.
For this reason, it serves as the most suitable option, especially for beginners. The vehicle is generally simple to maintain and durable. Electric cars are among the most suitable option for those that might have just entered the field but are worried about the skills that are required for the proper maintenance of the car.
Electric cars can only be charged and it does not require any effort to charge the battery. In general they are simple to maintain The only repair that an electric car will likely require will be in case of the damage to its suspension, or other related parts, such as the steering components or may be the chassis.
Another added benefit is, most of the electric cars are also waterproof and have the ability to withstand wet and moist weather conditions. Meaning you can enjoy the thrilling experience either in rain or any snow covered terrain.
When it comes to speed you will find electric RC cars faster than Nitros. The advanced specifications of electric cars, the brushless motors as well as the lithium polymer batteries have provided the electric cars with both speed power and longer run times as well.
Disadvantages of Nitro Cars
So far I have explained how good each of these cars are, but let me explain some of the disadvantages. In particular with the Nitro cars.
- Buying Fuel: One of the biggest drawbacks is that you will need to buy fuel. While this may not sound like a big issue to begin with, it is an ongoing expense. Meaning that these costs keep adding up, for the lifetime of your car.
- Thorough Cleaning: In addition to this you will need to maintain the car by giving it a good thorough clean. It is not just a surface spring clean by the way, this is an in-depth cleaning, opening the car up and looking in the inner compartments and making sure that there is no oil or residue.
- Fuel Tank and Air Filter Maintenance: Other tasks include draining your fuel tank, and also cleaning the air filter, which require some expertise to do this correctly.
- Glow Plugs and Lubrication: To keep your engine properly lubricated, you will have to add after-burn oil, in addition to this you will need to replace the glow plugs on a periodic basis to make sure that they are properly maintained. As you can see you need a good level of expertise to maintain your vehicle.
- Can’t Leave it Upside Down in Storage: Another thing to consider, you must never leave your car upside-down whenever you are storing it. The reason is, this could cause damage to your engine system.
- Can’t get it wet: It is important that you do not get your nitro car wet, the problem is if you do this it can damage the vehicle. Therefore if you are in bad weather conditions such as rain or snow you need to be very careful because this could end up costing you money in repairs.
Disadvantages of an electric RC vehicle new line
Now that we have covered the issues with Nitro cars, let me explain the disadvantages of the electric vehicles:
- Charging Times: One of the biggest disadvantages of the electric vehicles is the charging time. It may seem convenient to have a power source that you can continually recharge, but the only issue with this is it takes a long time to recharge the battery. Expect anything up to 2 hours or in some cases even more.
- Battery Run Times: The other issue is the amount of time that you get while actually racing the car. You can expect anything from 15 to 25 minutes of runtime. And understand that 25 minutes is regarded as a good runtime.
- Extra Cost for Non-stop running time: If you want to have a non-stop runout, without the interruptions. It will cost you, because you will have to have additional batteries that have been pre-charged.
- Battery Costs: On that note the cost of actually purchasing additional batteries is not cheap either. To give you an idea of the cost, you could be looking anything from $50 to $75 to get a replacement battery, and bear in mind if you need multiple batteries, then you have to consider the costs of purchasing all of these.
- Repair Costs: Aside from battery costs you have the cost of repairs. This can be expensive for electric vehicles, even the diagnosis of an electrical fault can be a time-consuming and a complex activity.
Are there any Cons of Nitro Cars? Besides all the positives, Nitro Cars and Electric Cars have their own cons. Nitro cars are powered by gas-powered engines which cause more noise as compared to any other vehicle.
As discussed earlier, this can be see as a benefit, but for some people, this noise pollution may disturb neighbouring areas and in some cases, certain race tracks won’t accept them for this reason.
Moreover, the gas-powered Nitro engines require more work to break-in, maintain, tune and is more expensive to run.
Similarly, nitro cars require fuel which means that you have to continuously buy fuel for it, which also adds up the costs. Another con of having a nitro car is related to the lack of a reverse gear.
In addition to these cons, with respect to the environmental concerns, one cannot ignore the fact that nitro cars generate more harmful gases and fumes as compared to electric vehicles. For this reason they cannot be used indoors.
Are there any Cons of Electric RC Cars? Looking forward to buying an electric RC car for your family? You need to have an eye over its shortcoming before making a purchase. The run time of electric vehicles is limited to the capacity of the batteries they have installed.
If your car batteries run out or deplete you cannot continue racing unless you have fast charging equipment to charge your car batteries. And even then, it is not a seamless transition without delays.
This may also add up to the additional costs of having a motor vehicle as you are required to have special chargers to charge your car batteries. Although electric RC cars are regarded as a better option by most people, it is important to have on all the negatives before spending your hard earned money on them.
Which one is cheaper, Nitro RC car or an Electric car? Cost, often, is a very big factor to be considered when comparing both Nitro and electric cars. Some prefer cheap RC cars, others just care about the fastest car, while others don’t care whether the cars are cheap or not.
In general, the starting cost of an electric car is more expensive, however long term it will work out cheaper. Simply because you do not have the on-going fuel costs that are incurred by the Nitro cars.
What are the pros and cons of brushless electric technology? Brushless electric motors have a number of advantages, as a result, the brushless electric technology has gained a lot of attention.
There are no brushes in a brushless electric motor. The brushless electric technology offers a high power to weight ratio. Also faster speed.
Besides longer motor life, it offers higher efficiency for longer battery life. Besides this, the brushed electric technology provides better heat dissipation together with reduced physical as well as electrical noise.
When used with the lithium-powered batteries, offers more play time and greater power as well. Apart from several advantages that brushless electric technology has, there are some disadvantages to consider too.
Brushless electric technology makes these vehicles more expensive than the brushed version. This is not entirely due to the presence of brushless technology but the lithium polymer batteries that are often used in these vehicles together with the other upgraded components make the difference.
Apart from this, be warned, these brushless vehicles may be too fast for beginners.
Which one is easier to maintain, electric or Nitro? Both the electric and nitro RC require maintenance. There is no real difference when it comes to wheel rims, tires, shocks, bearings and replacing screws.
The difference, however, exists in terms of the other parts that need to be replaced periodically. For example for a Nitro, it is necessary to check the fuel system and replace the glow plug on a periodic basis.
On the other hand, for electric cars, either the worn out brushes or the entire brushed electric motor must be replaced. The necessary run maintenance of a nitro car may also include fuel draining from the tank (Click here to see how to check if the Nitro fuel is bad first), cleaning and adding oil. This activity, however, is not performed with an electric RC.
Which one of the two nitro RC car and electric RC has a better runtime? The electric RC cars rely entirely on the batteries and on the other hand, fuel is used by the nitro vehicles. The runtime of nitro depends on the amount of fuel that can be held by the tank and the time it may take to refuel it.
The runtime of electric RC depends on the longevity of the battery. As a really rough guide, because this can vary a lot based on driving conditions, the car you have, etc, a nitro RC takes around 30 to 45 minutes of runtime depending upon the tank size.
An electric RC, even with a high-end battery, will still not beat the runtime of a nitro RC. Also understand, a battery may need at least 45 minutes to charge.