The Great Debate! Nitro vs Electric Power? What is right for YOU?
The oldest argument in the book surrounding remote control cars is the choice of the power plant, the rev heads amongst us will say nitro is the only way to go for a realistic experience and the tech heads will back in the incredible performance of Electric brushless systems and the hassle-free nature of electric power. There are so many factors to consider when choosing a car and the type of power system that car runs will come down to a variety of factors. Ultimately the option you choose to go with will be dependent on the experience you wish to have and the time you wish to dedicate to the R/C hobby, let’s break down some of the Pros and Cons of both options.
At the heart of the debate between nitro and electric, the simplicity of use is probably the biggest consideration for your new purchase. With an EP (Electric Powered) car we have far less going on and this gives us fewer points of failure, ultimately making for a more reliable experience. A brushless motor and ESC require next to no servicing and unless you’re running in water a simple blow off with compressed air is about as far as you need to go between runs for maintenance. In most situations these days an EP car is powered by a LiPo (Lithium Polymer) battery and having a bunch of these pre-charged and ready to go makes going for a bashing session very simple, all you require is the car, transmitter, Batteries and some basic tools/parts as an added extra. The other often forgotten factor is that we all typically have experience with charging something in our lives whether it be your smart phone, mobile tablet device, or other technology, understanding charging has become inherent in our daily lives.
Nitro is certainly a lot less simple, even the gear required to take with you requires more preparation. A glow ignitor, Fuel, Fuel filler bottle, spare glow plug and starting device (Some motors are pull start, others use a handheld starter or starter box method) are all required to get you going and keep you going for a session of driving. Nitro cars are also more maintenance intensive, with the engine and surrounding components requiring regular checks you will find yourself spending time on the tools between track days cleaning the car, making sure the clutch is in good order and the air filter is clean.
Ultimately, we must all stick to our budget in order to be able to continue to enjoy our hobby! Cost is a major factor in picking between the nitro and electric cars, typically you will spend similar amounts getting a car setup and ready to go. EP cars have fewer consumable items, but the individual items cost much more, batteries can be an expensive purchase and the amount you have, directly correlates to the amount of running you can do before needing to re-charge. Having only 1-2 batteries and re-charging multiple times in the same day can also be detrimental to the battery's health and overall longevity, these are certainly one item that you don’t want to be replacing constantly. Nitro has far more consumable items, but the best part is that most of these are quite cheap! Air filters can be cleaned and re-oiled much like a dirt bike, clutch bearings are replaced often and are only worth a few $$ each, glow plugs last a long while if your tune is good and engines also last a long while if treated and tuned correctly. The most expensive cost is the fuel that the Nitro engines run on, this is something that will cost you approximately $50 for 4 Litres and with a buggy tank size @ 125ml and a typical tank runtime is approximately 7:30 minutes you will see around 4 hours of running per 4 litres of fuel you buy, considering that you can continue filling up the tank and driving a nitro car, that price is very reasonable for the running that you can get.
3. Experience and performance
Nitro cars bring a whole new level of enjoyment to the hobbyist, if you love to tinker in the shed and are willing to learn how to tune then there is no comparison to having an engine revving to 40,000 rpm and the smell of the exhaust as you drive past at full throttle. Especially if you’re racing, the thrill of long finals with multiple pit stops and a pit crew cannot be beaten. EP offers something that you can do in your street without fear of upsetting the neighbourhood, but battery life is always going to be your limiting factor as to how long you can run for! As far as the ultimate in performance goes, with brushless technology these days the EP powered cars are certainly impressive when it comes to top speed and torque. Nitro cars develop a much more user-friendly power band which dramatically increases the drivability, this is partly due to the clutch system. If you want all out top speed, then an EP Brushless setup with a big pinion gear is going to be hard to compete with.
So how do I choose?
Before purchasing you need to be honest and ask yourself some questions. Does the Nitro aspect bring out your inner rev head? Are you happy to spend some time on the tools servicing and maintaining your engine and clutch? If so, the nitro side of the hobby could be for you, working on the cars and tinkering with motors can be half of the fun and the end results is a unique and satisfying experience driving a Nitro powered R/C car. If you want to be able to pull the car out of the cupboard and go bashing with much less maintenance involved or nitro doesn’t interest you then electric power is your best bet. The EP cars and simple and a great option for the hobbyist that wants the most fun for minimal effort.
Please feel free to contact us should you have any questions.