Guide to Gas, Electric, or Nitro for Best RC Performance

by Josh | Last Updated:   6 months ago
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Being around RC cars almost all my life, I had developed a special inclination towards their working mechanics trying to make sure I stay up to date.

RC cars work on electric, nitro, and gasoline engines as sources of their energy. The nitro engine RC cars are the most powerful amongst the three. Electric models are better in speed and efficiency. Gasoline-fueled cars utilize a mixture of oil and gasoline as fuel.

This experience and passion have taught me that the fuel RCs use makes a big difference in the way they run and function. 

On a personal level, I feel that nitro models are the most powerful and fun to work with. Let us take a look at these models in detail.

Electric Vs Nitro Vs Gasoline

Kind of RCElectricNitro Gasoline
Fuel UsedRechargeable nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium, or lithium polymer cellsA blend of nitromethane, methanol, and oil is usedUtilize a mixture of oil and gasoline.
TypesTwo types of electric motors- brushed and brushless.One TypeOne Type
SpeedBrushless is fastest compared to any other type.Slower than some of the brushless electric models.Average speed
Battery Life Brushless has a better battery performance than brushed engines No battery is needed. Runs on fuelThey run on gas, once it’s over you need to fill gas again 

Electric Type

Compact yet powerful electric motors are used to fire up electric cars. These electric motors have rechargeable nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium, or lithium polymer cells. 

Apart from that, you will see two types of electric motors- brushed and brushless. Brushless motors are costly yet more powerful and efficient.

Nitro Type

While glow plug engines are used in fuel-powered motor modals. A blend of nitromethane, methanol, and oil is used to fuel the small and compact internal combustion engines.

Gasoline Type

Large models of these cars have been manufactured lately that is charged up by compact gasoline engines. These fall pretty close to string trimmer motors that utilize a mixture of oil and gasoline.

Electric Models

Compact yet powerful electric motors are used to fire up electric cars. These electric motors have rechargeable nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium, or lithium polymer cells. 

Apart from that, you will see two types of electric motors- brushed and brushless. Brushless motors are costly yet more powerful and efficient. Read below to find out how these work.

Brushed DC motors

First, you should know that a motor converts any kind of energy into motion. An electric motor hence converts electricity to motion. This is done via two magnets. 

One of the magnets is created by tightly winding a wire around a ferrite core through which electricity is passed. 

The second magnetic field is created through the current, which passes through the wire. The two magnetic fields repel each other, hence rotating the motor around an axle.  

Structure

The brushed motor contains four salient components- the stationary magnet- permanent or electromagnet, rotor, commutator, and brushes. The rotor, which is the ferrous metal with the wire is connected to one of the brushes. 

When current is passed, the magnetic fields of the rotor and the stationary magnet interact to create a force of motion.

Working

A loophole with using regular wires for rotor winding connections is that once the rotor has reached a certain angle of rotation, it would reverse in direction, and hence the rotator would just keep changing directions. 

Hence, we use the commutator that is essentially just a copper sleeve circumscribing the axle, which divides the structure electrically and physically.

So when the power is applied and the current is passed, the commutator keeps connecting and disconnecting these two segments, alternatively giving power to both. 

This reverses the polarity of the magnets, which in turn allows the motor to run smoothly.

Here are a few pros and cons of brushed motors over brushless ones.

Pros

Cons

Brushless Motors

The permanent magnet in these motors obviates the need for brushes. The basic structure is nearly the same. It consists of a permanent magnet rotor and a stationary magnet with a coil wound around it. 

An added element is the Hall Effect sensors, which are used to create feedback signals. These feedback signals navigate semiconductor switching devices.

Essentially brushless motors are 180 degrees flip of brushed motors. The rotor has permanent magnets and the stationary magnets have electromagnets. 

The electromagnets are charged by a computer which helps the rotor rotate fully by 360 degrees.

Pros and cons of brushless motors over brushed electric motors are:

Pros

Cons

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Nitro

Glow plug engines are used in fuel-powered motor modals. A blend of nitromethane, methanol, and oil is used to fuel the small and compact internal combustion engines. These are called nitro cars.

When the fuel is ignited, the impact of the exploded fuel pushes down the piston which gives power to the engine. As the piston goes down, the crankshaft rotates which shuts the carburetor slot. 

Since the piston is putting pressure on the fuel-air mixture inside the crankcases, it gets compressed. As the piston drops, the exhaust port gets exposed which lets the exhaust gases out of the cylinder. 

Now the intake port is opened and the compressed fuel mixture enters the cylinder via the transfer ports. 

These intake gases will force all exhaust fumes out through the exhaust. Once the piston reaches the bottom of its stroke, the slot under the carburetor will open. 

This will, in turn, lead to more air mixture and fuel being pulled through by the vacuum.

Once the piston begins to go back up and the vacuum of the crankcase releases the fresh fuel to the bottom and the transfer of fuel into the upper cylinder slows down. 

This new mixture is compressed like before as the piston covers the intake ports. Any leftover exhaust gas leaves the cylinder. At times a little fuel-air mixture is thrown out as well. 

However when the exhaust closes the new air mixture is compressed as a result of which the cylinder head temperature rises and the glow plug renders fuel ignition. This cycle is repeated.

Here are a few pros and cons of nitro motors to help you draw a comparison between the three discussed motor types.

Pros

Cons

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Gasoline

Large models of these cars have been manufactured lately that is charged up by compact gasoline engines. These fall pretty close to string trimmer motors that utilize a mixture of oil and gasoline. 

Gasoline engines are 4 stroke engines that comprise four elements- Air, Fuel, Compression, and Spark.

Air and Fuel are input into the carburetor which mix the two for combustion. This fuel and air mixture enters the combustion chamber through the intake valve. 

As the mixture enters the cylinder bore, the piston pushes downwards. 

When the piston reaches the bottom dead center, the capacity of the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder reaches its peak. 

The intake valves close again and the piston springs back up to its original position and the mixture gets compressed between the head of the cylinder and the piston. This is also referred to as the compression stroke.

Then comes the power stroke. Since the piston is at the top dead center, it has the potential to ignite the fuel to provide the maximum power to the motor. 

This stroke creates a high voltage, which is discharged using a spark plug, into the combustion chamber. 

The heat ignites the gases, which release highly heated and expanding gases that push the piston down to the cylinder bore.

In the last stroke, the piston is at the bottom again and all combustion gases are released through it when the piston moves up. Once all gases are out, the exhaust valves shut and the piston is back to the top. 

The entire 4-stroke engine cycle repeats itself. Power is created in only one of the four strokes however, the crankshafts fully rotate twice. A small engine flywheel keeps the machine functioning.

Final Thoughts on What Do RC Cars Run On

Choosing the right power source for your RC car can be challenging if you have half-knowledge of the subject. With this extensive guide, you will be able to make an informed decision. 

Whichever option you go for, keep the power of the vehicle and the level of the user controlling the car in mind. All three engines work well if they are taken care of.

Sources 

https://www.rchobbiesoutlet.com/understanding-the-pros-and-cons-of-nitro-vs-electric-vs-brushless-electric-rc/#:~:text=Pros%20and%20Cons%20of%20Nitro%20Gas%20powered%20RC%20Products&text=It%20provides%20opportunity%20to%20learn,than%20many%20electric%20powered%20vehicles

https://www.briggsandstratton.com/na/en_us/support/videos/browse/4-stroke-theory.html#:~:text=Air%20and%20fuel%20enter%20the,will%20allow%20for%20proper%20combustion.&text=This%20allows%20atmospheric%20pressure%20to,as%20the%20piston%20moves%20downward.

https://www.diodes.com/design/support/technical-articles/driving-brushed-dc-motors/

http://www.rcracer.com/2009/09/how-nitro-engines-work-63/

http://buildipedia.com/aec-pros/design-news/the-brushless-dc-motor-and-its-use-in-electric-cars