Electric RC Cars Beginners Guide
"I still remember the day my parents bought me my first rc car. The joy and excitement I felt going into the hobby shop, picking out the kit, radio controller and battery pack. That was one of the happiest days of my life."
That's me in the photo, a beginner with my first r/c car taken around 1979. A long time ago, but for me still seems like only yesterday. So please join me as we learn more about electric rc cars.
Electric RC Cars for Beginners
Let's start by imagining we are both walking into an rc car shop. We see in the store so many great kits in their boxes. On the counter, we see batteries, motors, radio controllers and other accessories. And hanging on the wall are various rc car parts.
So look around and choose the model that you like. It could be an on-road touring car or an off-road rc truck. Important is that you like it. Next would be to find out, is it a kit or ready-to-run (RTR)?
A kit is wherein when you open the box, the rc car is unassembled. You will need to build it yourself. To complete the set you need to buy:
A ready-to-run (RTR) electric rc car is usually 80% - 100% assembled out of the box. Most come with everything you need to get running.
Let's do an example. The most popular size is 1/10 scale. A good electric rc car for beginners would be an on-road touring car such as the Tamiya TT01.
But an off-road rc car like the 1/10 Tamiya Stadium Blitzer might be better. These pickup trucks can do jumps and run on dirt, the fun stuff.
Opening the box, we see a lot of plastic parts. Included is the 540 Mabuchi electric rc motor and an electronic speed control (esc).
Notice the body is made of clear polycarbonate / lexan plastic. These are painted on the inside.
Choosing a Radio Controller
Next would be to buy a good radio controller. I highly recommend you buy the best you can afford. A good radio control unit is one of the best hop-ups or upgrades.
Here I love the Airtronics / Sanwa MT-4. It is very lightweight and fits very well with small hands. Perfect for kids. And this is one of the best value and fastest response controller you can buy. Even serious racers use this.
Next would be to buy a suitable battery pack. Here are some common choices:
- 7.2v NiCad packs (old technology but still good and safe for bashing)
- 7.2v NiMH packs (also old technology but good for playing around with longer run times)
- 6.6v LiFe packs (new technology, safe to use, very durable)
- 7.4v LiPo packs (new technology, usually for racing)
For beginners and kids I would recommend to avoid LiPo batteries as these require more attention. Wrong charging or discharging might result in flames or a permanently damaged pack. I like LiFe.
Choosing a Peak Detection Battery Charger
Best would be to look for a battery charger that can charge NiCad, NiMH, LiFe and LiPo. Personally I use the IMAX B6 and the LRP.
Peak detection means the charger will automatically stop charging once the battery is fully charged.
Personally I charge at 4amps for almost all my batteries. But I do recommend you charge based on the battery manufacturers recommendation.
And finally, you will need polycarbonate paint (e.g. Tamiya PS paints). These are designed to stick to the polycarbonate lexan rc bodies.
Electric RC Cars and Trucks
Popular today are electric powered short course trucks, minis, scale trucks, monster truck and on-road drift rc cars.
And some of the best brands are Tamiya, Associated, Losi, HPI, Kyosho, Yokomo and Traxxas.
Cheap Electric R/C Cars
Full list of cheap electric rc cars.
Electric RC Car Reviews
No holds barred honest reviews. I call it as I see it. Just my personal opinion.
Update: Below cars were good, but are now discontinued by their manufacturers. Here is the latest list of new electric radio control cars.
Below are links to my reviews on electric cars that are good for first timers or those with some experience. Just click on the hyperlinks to read the full review. Also an electric rc cars comparison chart.
1/10th Scale Off-Road RC Electric Trucks
Probably the most popular class, these cars (i.e. buggies, racing trucks, monster trucks) can be run on almost any type of surface. Dirt, dust, water, and jumps add to the fun.
These cars also make use of the standard 540 electric motor. The main difference to on-road is the suspension system. Long shock absorbers keep rc electric trucks stable over bumpy surfaces.
Tires are also bigger, have deeper threads or spikes, and are made of rubber. 2WD is still the most popular class for off-road, although there are plenty of 4WD cars to choose from.
* Picture of my favorite electric rc truck, the Tamiya Wild Willy 2.
1/12th Scale On-Road Electric
Early electric cars were 1/12th scale run on-road. Today’s cars are run indoors and outdoors, on asphalt or on smooth carpet.
These cars make use of 540 size electric motors, powered by 4 cell NiMH or 1s Lipo batteries. Pan chassis with direct drive transmission are the norm. Foam tires are used and lightweight Lexan bodies are used.
Because of its small size, 1/12th scale cars are lightweight, and have good power-to-weight ratio. 30+ mph speeds are achievable even with the basic Mabuchi stock motor.
Where to Buy
Visit your local hobby shop to buy electric rc cars. If there is non nearby, there are many online rc hobby stores that will ship kits and parts to your home. Visit the rc store page for a list of popular online shops.
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