A Guide To RC Car Batteries

 

Batteries have improved tremendously over the past decade. The popular Lipo Battery can finally handle the extremely high discharge rates that hobbyists demand, and are not only lighter, but also contain much higher energy densities than Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) and Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) cells.

There are three most popular types of RC Battery used in a RC vehicle: Lithium Polymer (LiPo), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (NiCad). Each have pros and cons that you need to be aware of.

LiPo batteries

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Powerful
  • Very light (typically around 250 grams)
  • Can be charged and used several times a day
  • No memory effect so they keep their full capacity over time

Cons

  • Will burst into flames when overcharged or punctured
  • Cannot withstand abuse and mishandling
  • Not recommended for beginners

The performance advantages of Lipo Battery technology does come with a tradeoff. If you abuse or mishandle your LiPo battery, you can expect a premature death for the battery pack, or even a more severe reaction: fire. Many RC and full-scale cars and homes have burned to the ground because of a LiPo battery on fire.

A common mistake newbies make when handling LiPo batteries is leaving a battery plugged into your model and simply turning off the switch to deactivate it. Housekeeping current demanded by the ESC could drain the battery below its safe discharge voltage if left overnight in this condition, thus leaving you with an irreparable LiPo battery.

Thunder LiPo Battery Charger

Thunder AC6 Smart LiPo Battery Charger

We recommend using the fireproof and explosion-proof Lipo Proof Bag when charging your LiPo batteries. These bags effectively isolate the battery from contacting with the air when combustion or explosion accidents happen, thus stopping and containing any fire caused by incorrectly charging poorly functioning LiPo batteries.

Lipo Guard

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NiMH batteries

Pros

  • Powerful
  • Can be used twice a day

Cons

  • Very heavy (typically around 400 grams)
  • Takes a long time to charge
  • Memory effect

NiMH batteries have quietly seen similar leaps in capability while the LIPO technology continue stealing the limelight. NiMH batteries are great for beginners because NiMH cells can tolerate users with beginner battery knowledge, whereas LiPos have some unintuitive requirements.

Traxxas Ez Peak Plus Charger Traxxas LiPo and NiMH Charger

NiCad batteries

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Relatively durable even being abused

Cons

  • Old technology
  • Lacks power and capacity
  • Heavy (typically around 350 grams)
  • Memory effect

NiCad batteries are still good for beginners, but they are not as prevalent as they once were. They also develop memory, which means that these batteries remember their last charge. For example, if you use only 80% of the battery, then recharge it, the battery will only charge to 80% of its maximum capacity. To work around this memory effect, you will need to discharge the battery completely, before recharging.

Duratrax Onyx 110 AC_DC Peak Charger

Duratrax Onyx 110 AC/DC Peak Charger

Most Common Voltage

Most RC Battery that typically come with a purchase of a remote controlled vehicle are 7.2 Volt batteries. The 7.2 volt battery pack is made up of six 1.2 volt sub-c sized batteries soldered in a series configuration (6 x 1.2 volts = 7.2 volts). LIPO batteries have a different configuration of 1S = 3.7v, 2S = 7.4v.

These RC car batteries contain enough voltage to power the electric motor and the receiver that goes directly to your controller.

There are two physical configurations that can be made with your common RC car battery – the stick pack and the side by side pack. Both are 7.2 volts, except that the side by side pack is slightly wider. While some configurations will create different physical dimensions, they don’t often take up too much space underneath the RC body lid.

Chargers

You’ll need to use a rc battery charger when using RC cars batteries. Some batteries are as simple as a plug and play, and they’ll charge without problem. Other batteries require close monitoring to prevent damage to the battery.

There are two types of chargers: Timer-Based Chargers and Full Charge / Peak Detection Chargers.

Timer-Based chargers require that a timer is set for the duration of the charge, and will only stop charging when the timer runs out. With timer-based chargers, there is the potential to overcharge and damage the battery extensively, especially with LiPo batteries.

Full Charge Detection Chargers will detect when a battery reaches its full charge and automatically stop charging, which prevent overheating issues and don’t have to be so closely monitored. However, not all Full Charge Detection Chargers can be cross paired with the opposite battery. If you purchase a NiCad detection battery charger, it should not be paired with a NiMH battery.

Our Recommendation

If you are a casual RC hobbyist and just want to play around the backyard and not compete in races, NiCad batteries are cheap and relatively safe. But if you plan to take part in serious racing, then Lipo Battery will offer the power you seek.

Now you can make a more informed purchase decision to make sure that you are selecting the best RC Battery for your RC car and experience level.

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