How Long Do RC Car Batteries Last?


How Long Do RC Car Batteries Last?

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RCs car batteries are essential in the RC industry as they are one of the two main ways that RC cars get their power (nitro fuel being the other). Whether you’re new to this fantastic passion or an expert hobbyist, you should understand that RC cars rely on batteries or battery packs to start and run. A regular racer knows the importance of battery life, as it affects the total runtime. 

The RC car’s performance depends on how long the battery lasts and how long it takes to recharge. 

Most RC car batteries will last for 1-2 hours before needing recharged but that varies based on the size of battery and how hard you are running the vehicle. RC batteries have a lifespan that varies as well depending on the type of battery and your charging routine. 

  • LiPo batteries will last 300-500 charge cycles (discharge and recharge)
  • NiMH batteries will last 3-5 years
  • NiCD batteries will last 5-7 years (with some batteries lasting much longer)

All of these numbers are simply estimates as if you charge the batteries improperly or don’t store them correctly you will definitely shorten the lifespan of your RC battery as well as cause the battery to not last as long between charges. 

In this article, you will learn more about RC batteries and more specifically, how long should a battery last for an ultimate RC bashing experience.

RC battery life depends on the type, model and manufacturer as well as how well you maintain them. 

There are two main types of RC car batteries; rechargeable and alkaline. The rechargeable batteries are normally used to power the cars movement and the alkaline batteries are used in the remote. Some cheap toy RC cars will use alkaline batteries for both the car and the remote but this is rare. 

How long each battery lasts on your RC car depends on what packs you get, the cell number and the MAH number among many other variables. 

Electric RC batteries

Today, most RC vehicles use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to power the motor. For an RC to run for a longer period of time, the battery will need to last as long as possible. As you might already know, there are various types of batteries with different amounts of cells on the market, and each of the many models have their own power rating, capacity, etc. 

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Newbies in RC cars are prone to confusion regarding the features and might end up buying inefficient batteries or ones that simply are not powerful enough for their vehicle. 

Many RC vehicles come as RTR which means ready to race. That means the RC vehicle comes with everything needed to get started. However, some RC cars don’t come with batteries so you will have to buy them separately. 

If you are unsure of which battery you should get and what size you need be sure and check out the owner’s manual of the vehicle. 

How long the RC batteries will run depends on:

  • Motor ratings of the electric car
  • The electronic speed control and torque
  • The capacity of the battery

The battery in your car

A majority of batteries have a sticker or printed marking on them that will describe the type and technology they use.

Relevant RC batteries chemistries typically use:

Alkaline batteries- commonly found in AA batteries and used in fuel-powered RC cars to power the starters.

One huge downside is alkaline batteries are normally non-rechargeable.

Ni-Cd batteries, Nickel Cadmium, are rechargeable and provide consistent power to electric RC cars. They are comparatively environmentally unfriendly and suffer from the memory effect so they are only used in the cheapest RC cars. 

NiMH, Nickel-metal hydride battery, has a robust recharge capability and is easy to maintain. It’s one of the best cell batteries on the market but it isn’t even close to as powerful as the LiPo battery (mentioned next). 

LiPo batteries, lithium-ion polymer, these batteries have a higher energy density, and a consistent and powerful discharge, however they do have a shorter lifespan compared to NiMH batteries. They are lightweight, reducing the weight of the car, but more volatile than other solutions and require intelligent chargers.

Most low-end models use cheap, mostly NiMH batteries, and the high-end model RC cars come with a LiPo battery. Alkaline battery types last longer with low power output, which makes them good for the controller or receiver on a nitro fuel RC car. 

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Charger options for NiCd and NiMh are economical and practical to use and just need a simple charge after every use which is obviously much better than replacing alkaline batteries all of the time.

RC motor rating and battery life

The rating applies to RC cars with both brushed and brushless motors and is usually stamped on the surface of the engines. It is referred to by the number of revolutions of the engine per minute and determines the voltage of the battery compared to the KV rating. The RPM usually reduces significantly when the engine is fixed in an RC car.

The longest-lasting RC car battery will enable a motor to produce more RPM, thus making it faster when it comes to speed. High KV also means the RC car is less efficient than those with lower KV with similar voltage.

Low KV produces less heat at high voltage with a lower top-end speed. When choosing an RC motor, always select an engine that is balanced in between the extreme voltage levels. This enables the longest lasting RC battery to perform better.

The horsepower of the motor also affects battery life. When choosing the best RC car battery, pick the right voltage to avoid damaging your RC motor.

The capacity of the battery

When shopping for an RC battery be sure to note the power rating. Power rating refers to the ability of the battery and is measured in Milli Ampere Hour (mAh). The longest-lasting battery has a higher power rating and lasts longer, which means your RC car will run for a longer period of time between charges.

A high amount of power enables your RC car to operate at higher speeds and  for more extended periods of time. 

Save As Much Battery Life as Possible

As powerful as your RC battery might be, there are several things that you can do to prolong the battery life.

Avoid using the vehicle in extreme temperatures as the battery life is affected by the temperature outside. Very high and low temperatures will reduce the life of your battery by increasing the discharge rate. In winter, the battery will discharge faster, losing power more quickly than usual. Ideally you will want to use your RC vehicle in temperatures between 50F to 80F.

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You should also avoid abruptly hitting the throttle, as it is the quickest way to discharge an RC battery. Just like when you drive hard you use more fuel so too will you use more battery power if you accelerate hard and fast. 

Try and accelerate smoothly by pressing and depressing the throttle gradually, and avoid accelerating hard. You don’t need to drive slowly, but avoid sudden stop and go maneuvers. Accelerating your car more gracefully will go a long way in ensuring your battery lasts drastically longer.

Reducing the weight of the car will also improve battery life. You will be saving the battery as well as making sure your RC car is faster because there is less weight to push forward. You should also make sure your tires are in the right condition. Tires with enough thread maintain traction with the ground; the battery might discharge prematurely if the tires aren’t gripping well.

Another thing you can do to increase your battery life is change the bushings for bearings where bushings are used to reduce friction between moving parts of the RC car. Bearings allow the shaft to rotate more freely than with bushings, reducing the amount of throttle needed to accelerate the vehicle.

Conclusion

Make sure that your batteries are in good shape and well maintained as well. If you maintain your batteries properly they will last much longer between charges and also much longer before needing to be replaced. LiPo batteries will typically last between 300-500 cycles while NiMH batteries will last much longer but won’t provide as much acceleration or power either. 

Ultimately you have to decide what works best for you and whether you prefer a battery that will have a longer life span or one that will allow you to have more power, acceleration and run time. 

Matt Robbs

I love to spend time with my wife and 3 kids. There is no better way to get them off the couch and outside than for us to grab the RC cars or boat and enjoy the sunshine!

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