Electric R/C cars and trucks have several advantages for new hobbyists. They're clean-running. They make relatively little noise. And they're easier to operate than "gas" models. You don't have to buy fuel, heat glow plugs or fuss over engine adjustments. Just charge your batteries and connect wires properlythen, your electric car should work.
You have a huge variety to choose from: trucks, semis, buggies, sedans, stock cars and more. Many cars come in "sport" or "competition" versions. First-timers might prefer the sport models for their lower cost and simplicity, though if you're set on racing you may want some competition features, such as ball bearings and oil shocks.
When you choose a car, make sure you understand what it does and does not include. Some kits already come with the motor and a mechanical speed control. Competition-level cars provide the basic rolling chassis, but often require you to purchase everything else (motor, battery, electronic speed control, body) separately. Follow the Accessories Required links for the model you choose to see a list of the items you'll need.
Speed controls give you command over when and how fast your electric R/C vehicle moves. Working together with your radio system, they deliver current to the motor based on signals you send from the transmitter.
ESCs don't slow down there though. They come in two versions, brushed and brushless, that are designed to work with either brushed or brushless motors. Brushed ESCs deliver power input through two wires to the motor which causes the rotor to turn. Brushless ESCs deliver power through three wires in a sequential pattern which causes a brushless motor to turn.
Before you get stalled out on the technical data, just filter this into your command matrix: brushed is simple and inexpensive, brushless delivers more power and more precise control. So if you want to bash in your backyard, by all means go brushed, but if you want to beat out the competition you need a brushless ESC.
Technology has advanced to the point where you have almost as many choices in ESCs as you do cars themselves. Even if you purchase a ready-to-run model that comes with an electronic speed control, you may eventually want to upgrade to another ESC — weighing such features as:
| Speed Control Shopping Tips
|Brushed/Brushless. An ESC and motor must match: Brushed motors need brushed ESCs. Brushless motors need brushless ESCs.
||LiPo Batteries. If you use LiPo packs, you need a LiPo-compatible ESC.
(These ESCs are also compatible with NiCd and NiMHs.) ||On-Resistance. Lower numbers mean more efficiency and better
performance overall. |
|Motor Limit. The "hottest" motor the ESC can handle. More turns (T) are okay. ||Size/Weight. Smaller ESCs are easier to install, especially on 1/18 or 1/20 scale chassis. Less weight = more efficiency and power.||Price. Sport (fun) ESCs are the lowest in price. ESCs that offer more
programmability and/or racing features tend to increase it.|
|Types. Forward-only or forward brake ESCs may be for sport or competition, depending on price. ESCs with Reverse are primarily for sport, but may include reverse lockout (disable) to make them race legal.
In R/C, there are two basic classes of motors:
Stock and Modified
If your model comes with a motor, it's most likely the stock variety. Stock motors must be run as is...you cannot open them to make modifications (which few beginners should attempt anyway).
Modified motors require additional current to operate and should be used only with an electronic speed control. Equipped with such features as ball bearings and adjustable timing, they generally offer more power and greater torque than stock motorsbut also drain your battery pack faster.
What else do I need?
You have the car or truck, a motor and a speed control. That covers the equipment that makes an assembled electric model ready to race. But you need a few additional items to transform it from a static machine to one with the power to move at your command. Those include a 2-Channel or 3-Channel radio system, with "AA" batteries to power the transmitterplus some Field Accessories, including battery packs, a charger, and a field bag.
And, if you purchased a kit rather than an RTR (Ready-to-Run) model, you'll also need a few tools and finishing supplies to put your new vehicle togethersuch as:
Batteries and Charger
A rechargeable battery pack is required to run virtually all electric cars and trucks. These are typically made of NiCd, NiMH LiPo cells, wired together and covered in a plastic film or case. Most drivers keep several packs on hand, using one to race while another is recharging (which usually takes about 20 minutes).
| Battery Shopping Tips
|Capacity - How much energy a cell can store. Capacities range from 50mAh (milliAmp hours) to 5400mAh.
||Cell Set - A package of unassembled cells. Great for do-it-yourself types. More economical than prebuilt packs. ||Configuration - How cells are assembled. Cells are end-to-end (in stick packs), side-to-side (in flat packs) and split into two side-by-side groups (in saddle packs). In hump packs, at least one cell is stacked on other cells. |
|LiPo, LiIon - While newer, lighter and more powerful than NiCd or NiMH cells, Lithium-Polymer (LiPo) and Lithium-Ion (LiIon) cells also cost more and require special chargers. ||Matched Cells - Cells discharged at a specific (amp) rate and matched to others with similar run times and average voltages. Many are also processed to boost voltage. Most command a premium price. ||NiCd (Nickel-Cadmium) - The most common and economical type of battery. See NiMH, LiPo/LiIon. |
|NiMH (Nickel-Metal Hydride) - About the same size and weight as NiCd cells, NiMH cells cost more but offer a wider (and higher) range of capacities. NiMHs are also more environmentally friendly, and require neither cycling or recycling. ||Pack - A set of assembled, shrink-wrapped cells that includes a lead (wires) and connector. Packs cost a bit more than cell sets, but can be used immediately. ||Sub-C Cells - Slightly smaller than typical "C" cells.
|Voltage (V) - A measure of force. Nominal voltage of a LiPo cell is 3.7V, vs. 1.2V for a NiCd or NiMH cell. More cells = more voltage = quicker acceleration! |
Various types of chargers are available for R/C car batteries. Most beginners choose a basic, affordable AC/DC charger that can be powered either from a 110V AC household current or from an 11-15V DC car battery at trackside. They might also look for a charger with a "trickle" charge mode—these let you charge packs slowly overnight. Competitors often use a "peak detection charger." These units have electronic circuitry that can detect when a battery has reached its maximum charge, and then it automatically switches to a slow trickle charge.
| Charger Shopping Tips
|AC vs. DC: AC units plug into 110V home outlets. DC units require a 12V battery or power supply. AC/DC units can use both, so you can charge anywhere! ||Capacity: How much energy a cell can store, in milliamp-hours (mAh).
||Capacity, Charger: How many cells can be charged. May be expressed as a range of cell capacities (100-1,300mAh), voltages (1.2-9.6V) or cells (1-8).
|Discharging: Draining energy from a cell or battery pack. Regular discharging conditions cells to perform better and last longer.
||Fixed vs. Adjustable: Current Fixed chargers have only one charge rate. Chargers with adjustable rates allow you to tailor the rate to the battery capacity. ||Lead-Acid/LiPo/NiCd/NiMH Battery types: A charger may be suitable for only one type of battery or all four. Be sure your battery and charger are compatible. |
|Timed vs. Peak: Timed units charge until time runs out. Peak units charge until the battery is fully charged and automatically turn off to prevent overcharging.|
The lists below show some popular options in batteries and chargers to keep your electric vehicle running. Those under the "Basic" heading do the job for the lowest cost. "Mid-Range" and "Deluxe" choices add convenience features or versatility.
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Tower Hobbies carries just about every individual part you might need for any electric vehicle that we offer. And along with direct replacement parts, we also have many "aftermarket" parts - such as wheels, tires, bodies, suspension and steering components, motors, batteries, decals, and so on - that you can use to improve your model's performance and customize its looks.
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