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Are Electric RC Cars Faster Than Nitro?

A remote control car is loads of fun to use for beginners and experienced hobbyists alike. However, there are two main types of motors that are used in RC cars: nitro and electric. Virtually all toy-grade RC cars have an electric motor while hobby-grade RC cars can be purchased in both electric and nitro variations.

Although electric RC cars are used by anyone whether a beginner or advanced user, advanced users will typically be the only ones who will want to deal with all of the things involved in maintaining a nitro RC car.

A nitro remote-controlled car uses an engine fueled by a methanol-based fuel that contains nitromethane. This nitro engine and nitro fuel are the RC equivalent of the gasoline engine and gasoline used in your full-size car or truck.

The electric RC car is powered by a motor that requires electricity (in the form of a battery pack) as fuel.

But which one is faster? The electric or nitro RC? 

An electric (battery-powered) RC car has a much faster top speed than a nitro-powered car will. The fastest electric RC car can easily top 100 mph while the fastest nitro car will only go 50-60 MPH. 

When it comes to speed, currently high specification electric RC cars are a lot faster than the fastest nitro RC car. In the past, nitro RCs were faster than electric RC cars but, with advanced innovations like brushless electric motors (instead of brushed motors) and LiPo batteries, electric RC cars are a lot better and faster than they used to be.

Electric RC cars and trucks are also more cost-efficient and easier to run than their nitro counterparts. When preparing your electric RC car, there is no need to tune it up, break in the motor, fill the fuel tank, replace the glow plugs, and make sure you have backup fuel and tires whereas you need all of that with a Nitro RC car. 

Electric RC cars are easier to use because you will just need to charge the batteries and go. Tracks are usually designed for electric RC cars, and the tires on electric RC cars grip better on these tracks.

As environmental laws get tighter, electric-powered RC cars will also be seen as more environmentally friendly.

To see the most popular electric RC cars just click here. 

Electric RC Cars Vs Nitro RC Cars

Although electric RC cars will go faster than nitro models that are far from the only thing to consider. One thing that you should consider is that nitro RC cars put off a lot of heat. So if you normally drive somewhere to use your RC car you will have to make sure that the engine block cools down some before you put it in your vehicle.

You also have to be far more careful what you touch on a nitro RC car since there are so many parts that will heat up.

Another thing to consider is that since nitro RC cars have actual engines that run on actual fuel then they will have air filters, flywheels, carburetors, spark plugs (known as glow plugs), etc. there is much more to maintain with a nitro RC car than on electric models.

With an electric RC car, all you have to do is clean it and charge the battery. With a nitro-powered RC car, you have to buy the fuel, mix it, clean out the lines, watch the engine temperature, and much much more.

There is much more that goes into running and operating a nitro RC car than an electric model.

One thing that is a massive positive for nitro RC cars is the longer run time. Nitro-powered RC cars can run for many hours at a time without stopping except to refill with fuel. A battery-powered RC car can only be used until the battery (or batteries) is depleted and then you have to wait multiple hours for it to recharge.

This longer run time is an amazing bonus that makes many enthusiasts really enjoy using a nitro RC car over an electric one.

What Makes Electric RC Cars Go Faster?

Electric RC cars are fun to run, but running them faster will just add to the fun. Although most electric RC cars are fast, most people (myself included) want to go even faster! So what will make an RC car go faster? 

To make your electric RC car go faster, you can change the battery and motor. This will result in the most dramatic increase in speed, but it is a bit expensive.

Alternatively, you can make electric cars a lot faster by modifying the gear ratios. Maintaining the suspension system and wheels is also key to getting the top speeds.

Consider changing the pinion gear on your RC car. This is the one of least expensive and easier ways to change the speed of your RC car. The bigger the pinion, the more teeth it has and this means fewer turns for the pinion gear to turn the spur gear. 

Your low-end power will decrease while the high-end speed will increase. This means that your RC car will go faster although it will lack power when moving at low speeds. 

The increase in the size of the pinion gear should be gradual. Add just a few teeth at a time over time. The bigger pinion gears may increase the strain on the motor and subsequently could lead to overheating problems.

Similarly, you can decrease the spur gear (lowering the tooth count). This will also help your RC car to run faster because this increases the high-end power. 

However, going down with two teeth on the spur gear will have a smaller impact than going up with two teeth on the pinion gear. You need to be careful not to go down too much, as this can again lead to the motor overheating. 

Overall, the gearing system (both the spur and pinion gears) has a big say in how fast your RC car can run.

A simple battery upgrade can also massively increase the speed of your RC car. There are different labels on the battery packs. The thing you should be interested in is the type of battery pack you will be using and its voltage.

There are two main types of batteries: lithium polymer batteries (LiPo) and nickel metal hydride batteries (NIMH).

Nickel metal hydride batteries (NIMH) have multiple cells. Each cell usually has a rating of around 1.2 volts. This would equate to the 6-cell nickel metal hydride (NIMH) battery having 7.2 volts. 

Lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries are usually the battery of choice for electric RC cars. This battery supplies more power, and it is a lot lighter. 

The voltage of the lithium polymer (LiPo) battery corresponds to the number of cells it has. Usually, each cell has 3.4 volts. So a two-cell battery will have 7.4 volts, a 3 cell battery would have 11.2 volts, and so on.

It’s a good idea to make sure that the ESC (electronic speed control), electrical wiring, and motor can all handle the higher voltage of an upgraded battery before you upgrade. 

More information on all of these components can be found in the user’s manual of your electric RC car. It really is a good idea to run your RC car at the voltage it is recommended and rated for.

Just be aware that if you run your RC car at a higher voltage than recommended, this could eventually lead to the ESC, the motor, and the other electrical components overheating and even catching fire.

Also, switching from a nickel metal hydride (NIMH) battery to a lithium polymer battery (LiPo) is doable, however, make sure the ESC is lithium polymer (LiPo) compatible.

Can You Change The Tires On Your RC Car To Make It Run Faster?

Three characteristics of the tires affect the speed of your remote-controlled car.

The first characteristic is the profile of the tire. A taller tire will allow your car to run faster. The downside to this is that the larger tire will create a strain on your RC car motor. This could lead to overheating.

The second characteristic is the type of tire. Slick tires are a perfect choice for on-road RC cars, paddle tires do well on sandy terrain, and spiked tires are great for running in mud and wet grass.

The third characteristic is the angle of the tires. Use a camber gauge to set up the tires correctly. If even a single tire is not aligned, it can result in a slower-moving car. 

After adjusting the tires, make sure to check the condition of the shock absorbers and the suspension. This may seem obvious, but this step is often overlooked.

Final Thoughts 

Having a fast RC car is a blast but taking it from the stock speed to over 100mph (or buying a Traxxas XO-1 that goes 100+mph out of the box) can be dangerous if not done right. Make sure to follow all of the manufacturer’s directions when changing anything on your RC car. 

Nitro RC cars are slightly slower than their electric counterparts but they have a far more realistic sound coming from the exhaust than an electric one does. The brushless motors that are in most hobby RC cars are faster than any nitro RC cars that are on the market.

You should also keep your RC car clean and free from dust and debris. This will help it to last a very long time, and provide you with hours of fun with your friends and family.