Tips for Choosing RC Batteries and Chargers

So, you just got that first Ready-to-Run (RTR) vehicle and you’re dying to get it up and running.  After reading through the owners manual, you have now realized that the included Nickel Metal Hydride (Nimh) battery takes about 8 hours to charge via the included 1980’s wall charger.  Instantly, you’re compelled to go out and purchase an “upgraded” charger and find out that it’s confusing at best and and you’re starting to hear terms like Charge Amperage, AC/DC, Battery Chemistry, External Power Supplies, and Charge Leads.  Next, your buddies tell you that you need to ditch the Nimh battery that came with your brand new RTR because it’s “slow.” How do you choose RC batteries and chargers?

In this Blog, I will shed some light on the dark battery/charger industry and give you some tips for choosing your RC batteries and chargers to keep you on the track and having fun!

Chargers 101

AC/DC Chargers

-Can be plugged directly into the wall socket in your home and be run off of the 110v (US) or 220v (Over Seas)
-Is limited to the built in power supply on charge amperage (how fast the battery can charge).  Typically it’s 10 amps or less
-Can do multiple chemistries including nimh, nicd, lipo, lihv, life and pb
-Can have 1-4 ports for charging (how many batteries you can charge at once), but is limited to the built in power supply
-Initial set up cost is less than DC only

DC Only

-Must have an additional power supply attached for powering the charger
-Can charge at higher amperages (depending on power supply) reducing charge time
-Initially costs more than AC/DC chargers
-Can do multiple chemistries including nimh, nicd, lipo, lihv, life and pb
-Can have 1-4 ports for charging (how many batteries you can charge at once), your power supply will be divided, typically

Charger Recommendation

As a beginner, it’s recommended to purchase an AC/DC charger.  It’s just easier to operate and understand in the beginning and the cost is right in line with your RTR purchase.  Here’s some recommended 1st timer AC/DC chargers:

Hitec RDX1 – Single-Port, Multi Chemistry AC/DC Charger

Hitec X1 Touch – Single-Port, Multi Chemistry, Touch Screen AC/DC Charger

 

Batteries 101

Nimh/Nicd (Nickel Metal Hydride and Nickel Cadmium)

-The typical choice of RTR manufacturers to include with vehicles – Mostly because of shipping restraints on better Lithium based batteries
-Heaviest weighted batteries – more weight equals less speed/horsepower
-Are larger in size vs. similarly spec’d Lithium based batteries
-Performance starts to diminish very quickly after use and slowly decreases until it’s dead
-Are pretty safe, although they do heat up during charging
-Life span is diminished after every cycle (use/charge)

rc_batteries_chargers_nimh_nicd_battery-proc

Lipo (Lithium Polymer)

– Most popular “upgrade” battery from RTR’s
– Lighter than Nimh and Nicd
– Smaller in size vs. similarly spec’d Nimh/Nicd batteries
– Performance stays the same through out the length of the charge until Lipo Cut off triggered by your ESC
– Life Span can have hundreds of cycles with little notice of diminished performance
– Can be dangerous if all “Lipo Safety Rules” are not followed (See Below)

rc_batteries_chargers_lipo_battery-proc

Lihv (Lithium High Voltage)

– The newest in battery technology
– Packs additional voltage per cell (Lipo cells are 3.7v, and charge up to 4.2v, Lihv charge a bit more Example 4.3v per cell)
– Higher voltage equals more speed
– May not be legal for sanctioned racing
– Has many of the benefits/cons of lipo batteries

rc_batteries_chargers_lihv_battery-proc

Life (Lithium Iron Phosphate)

– Uses slightly lower voltage per cell than Lipo/Lihv at 3.2v vs 3.7v+
– Has  typically 4 times the cycles as Lipo batteries
– Generally even smaller in size than all of the above batteries
– Can handle higher charge rates
– Much safer than typical Lipo/Lihv batteries

rc_batteries_chargers_life_battery-proc

Battery Recommendation

My pick to upgrade your RTR battery is the Gens Ace Lipo battery.  All around this is a good battery.  You’ll need to reference the owner’s manual for specifics on maximum voltage and power for your vehicle.  Be sure to follow the Lipo/Lihv Safety Rules & Best Practices listed below.  Stay safe out there!

Lipo/Lihv Safety Rules & Best Practices

Do:

1. Always respect your Lipo batteries
2. Always be present during charging / Use a Lipo fire safe bag
3. Always keep your Lipo batteries in storage mode (3.8v/cell) when not in use
4. Always unplug your Lipo when done using your vehicle / done charging
5. Always keep your Lipo batteries in a cool place
6. Always charge your batteries out of your vehicle
7. Always use Hardcase Lipos for off road vehicles
8. Always verify settings in charger before charging
9. Always charge your Lipo batteries on a compatible Lipo charger
10. Always Balance-charge your Lipo Battery

Do Not:

1. Never leave your batteries unattended while charging
2. Never keep Lipo batteries fully charged
3. Never leave your Lipo batteries plugged in to your vehicle / charger
4. Never store your Lipo batteries in the heat – like a vehicle in the sun
5. Never use a Lipo battery that has been damaged, punctured, swelled, puffed, etc
6. Never charge your batteries while still in your vehicle
7. Never use softcase batteries in off road vehicles
8. Never charge your Lipo batteries on a non-lipo charger

Tell me what RC batteries and chargers do you like?

5 Comments:

  1. Just got a Arrma Outcast. I have no idea what I’m doing. I have lots to learn. Can you suggest a battery for me?

  2. Hey I’m new to the rc life and I just got the typhon 6s. I was Lookin for a reasonable charger and batteries that would suit a novice such as myself. Any tips u can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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