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Like many other electro-mechanical devices, RC boats require a battery to operate. However, the boats can only go as far as the battery charge allows.
How long should an RC boat battery last? RC boat batteries can last for one to three hours, depending on the type and amount of juice in the cells. Each battery type will last a different period of time and the way you use the boat will also cause the time to vary. If you use the boat at full throttle constantly the battery won’t last as long as it would if you were going a slower speed.
An RC boat battery powers everything in the boat. Even nitro-powered RC boats require a battery to operate. There are different types of RC boat batteries, each with specific charging requirements.
Types of RC Boat Batteries and How Long They Last
Know the types of batteries used in RC boats and how long they last. This can facilitate an informed decision when purchasing an RC boat.
NiMH and LiPo Batteries
Two main types of batteries are used to power electric RC boats:
- Nickel metal hydride
- Lithium polymer
NiMH and LiPo are the essential elements that react to store electricity inside the cells. The chemicals contained in the two types of batteries have distinct pros and cons.
Many ready to run RC boat models come with NiMH batteries. This type of battery is:
- Does not require special care
On the downside, NiMH batteries are heavier than LiPo batteries of similar voltage and capacity. In addition, NiMH battery voltage decreases as the pack discharges.
Once you start operating the RC boat, its voltage decreases with the discharge of the pack. This means the boat will begin to go slower with each minute of use.
LiPo batteries are often sold as accessories in many cases. However, some ready to run RC boats feature LiPo batteries.
Unlike NiMH batteries, LiPo batteries are lighter, which makes RC boats with such cells feel more powerful. The feeling of power or punch is also heightened by the fact that LiPo batteries can maintain voltage for longer than NiMH batteries.
LiPo batteries can hold a steady voltage for a prolonged period and then lose power quickly at the end of the charge. On the downside, LiPo batteries are more expensive than NiMH batteries.
LiPo batteries also require special care to make them last for longer and enhance user safety. This type of battery often comes in two or three cell configuration.
Capacity and Voltage
The main factors to consider when comparing batteries:
Capacity determines the length of time your battery will run with each charge. On the other hand, voltage determines the speed and power the battery will deliver.
Batteries usually feature a number on their labels. The big numbers on the label, 1000, 2000, 3000, indicate the capacity in milliamp hours or mAh. Batteries with higher numbers take longer to recharge, and the longer the RC boat will run per charge.
It is essential to understand what mAh means. A 5000 mAh battery can hold the 5-amp load for an hour.
One milliamp is a thousandth of an amp (1/1000 of an amp). Therefore, the number of amps in a battery can be obtained by dividing the mAh rating of a cell by 1000.
Battery voltage is only suitable up to a certain extent. The power system of your RC boat is designed to handle a certain amount of voltage.
Exceeding the voltage may lead to:
- The shutdown of the entire system
- Frying of your RC boat electronics
The voltage of a pack of batteries is determined by the number of cells it has. One NiMH cell can deliver up to 1.2 volts.
NiMH batteries are usually packed in six or seven cells. LiPo batteries have fewer cells in each pack because of their higher voltage.
The “S” Designation
Both NiMH and LiPo batteries are referred to by the number of cells in their packs. In addition, LiPo packs may have the “S” designation including 2S, 3S or 4S.
The “S” stands for series, which means the cells in the pack are connected parallel to each other or in a series. However, some LiPo batteries are connected in both parallel and series.
A “P designates the parallel cell connection.” Therefore, cells with both parallel and series connections are designated by both “S” and “P.”
A “2S2P” LiPo has two pairs of cells, one pair wired parallel, and the other wired in a series. However, many LiPo batteries are wired in a series.
RC Battery Charging Tips
Be sure to use a NiMH charger if you have NiMH batteries and a LiPo charger if you have LiPo batteries. If your RC boat has both types of cells, make sure you use the appropriate charger.
Consider the amperage of the charger. The higher the amperage of the charger, the faster it will charge.
Although higher amperage chargers provide faster charging, that may not be the best thing for your RC boat battery. Giving your cells more juice than they can handle could fry them up.
It is essential to charge your batteries at lower amperage to extend your batteries’ life. Charge LiPo packs at the same rate as their capacity.
Always charge your batteries at a rate of 1C, which means capacity multiplied by one. LiPo batteries can handle charging at higher rates, but doing so will reduce their life expectancy.
NiMH batteries can tolerate charging at a higher amperage, but its always good practice to charge the batteries at a rate of 1C to maximize battery life. However, an occasional charge at a higher amperage to save time will not hurt the cells so much.
Battery Charging Safety
RC batteries require safe and careful handling. Otherwise, they can be quite dangerous to your health, especially when they explode or start to leak.
Avoid leaving your RC boat batteries unattended while charging. Although most batteries would charge without experiencing any problems, they may overheat during charging or develop other issues on rare occasions.
Be sure to use the right type of charger for your RC boat batteries. LiPo batteries are not designed for charging with NiMH chargers.
Using a NiMH charger on your LiPo battery could cause it to catch fire. Use a LiPo charger to charge LiPo batteries or put the multi-mode charger on LiPo charge mode.
Use the right connectors or appropriate adapter. Avoid rigging connections with exposed wires and clips to prevent a short circuit, which may damage the battery and cause it to catch fire.
To enhance safety when charging your RC boat battery, consider using a flame-retardant charging bag.
When shopping for a LiPo charger, choose one that can balance the cells in the pack as it charges. A balanced pack means that cells have a similar voltage.
LiPo balancing helps to prevent drifting of the voltage of cells in a pack, which usually happens during charging and discharging. LiPo cells can become damaged when over-discharged.
To ensure the cells have equal voltage during charging and discharging, be sure to use a LiPo charger that balances the cells in a pack. Make sure the balance plug of the cells is plugged into the charger.
Some chargers have built-in balance plugs, while others have external balance boards. The balance plug is usually a small white connector on the LiPo pack.
A LiPo plug is usually wired so that it can provide accurate readings for each cell’s voltage.
LiPo Battery Maintenance
Proper maintenance maximizes the service life of your LiPo batteries. To get the most out of your LiPo batteries:
- Use chargers with low voltage detection
- Keep the battery pack clean
- Make sure you store your batteries when they are at least 50 percent charged
If you aren’t careful when charging your battery it can become damaged or even explode! Check out the video below to see some common charging mistakes.
How long your RC boat will be able to go before needing recharged will vary by model, battery type, and how you use it. Some people would prefer to run their boat as fast as possible while other people prefer to do maneuvers instead of running at higher speeds. How you use your boat has a huge impact on how long the battery will last.
If your battery isn’t lasting as long as you would like you can upgrade to a better battery in most boats. If you choose to go this route, make sure to get a battery that is compatible with your boat’s model so you don’t damage any of the boat’s electronics.