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The battery guide: What you need to know
Although RC cars can be a great hobby, there are some challenges. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about RC cars batteries.
What is a Battery?
It’s a simple question, but it’s also ‘What does “a” stand for?’ Most people would struggle to answer that one, so let’s start at the beginning.
A battery is a device that converts electrochemical energy from one or more cells into electrical energy. This process is known as an electrochemical oxidation–reduction reaction (or redox reaction).
What is the working principle of a battery?
The flow of electrons creates electricity. The electrons must be moving from one place to the next in order to get them flowing. I was going to use this analogy to describe commuting to work, but then realized that many of us now work remotely. The anode, and the cathode are the places that electrons travel to and from in a cell. These electrodes are made of different metals. The power of a battery is determined by the force (voltage), and the volume (current) of electrons moving.
The flow of electrons from a battery must be balanced with a positive charge when it is being used. This is why they also have an electrolyte. The reaction products at both electrodes build up, which causes an increase in resistance and ultimately, the battery stops working.
Some batteries contain materials that can reverse the reaction. The connection of lithium-ion, nickel-metal-hydride, or lithium polymer batteries to an external power source, for example, sends energy back into a battery, and the reaction can happen again. Rechargeable batteries can’t be charged infinitely many times. Each cycle, the electrodes become less effective and eventually stop working.
Types of RC car batteries
Although many materials have been used to make electrodes for batteries, there are only a few that have proven to be effective. The different materials used have different properties. Nickel-metal hydride and lithium polymer (LiPo), are the most common ones found in RC cars.
NiMH battery packs have a low energy density which allows for decent run times and compact sizes. They can be charged several hundred times before they fail. The’memory effect” means that NiMH batteries need to be fully charged before they can be recharged again. Nickel-based batteries have a high discharge rate, around 10 to 15 percent per month.
LiPo battery have a higher energy density and greater voltage. This means that they can provide better run time, more power and are smaller. LiPo batteries don’t suffer the’memory effects’ and can be recharged flat. LiPo batteries discharge at a rate of around 5% per year, which is lower than NiMH batteries. They are also more expensive than NiMH batteries, and have a shorter lifespan – you can expect them to last 250 cycles.
There are many differences between LiPo and Lion batteries. LiPo batteries are smaller than Li-ion and more durable, making them suitable for RC cars. However, LiPo batteries can be more costly and last less time. LiPo batteries are a solid electrolyte while Li-ion use a liquid.
Use NiMH or LiPo batteries for RC cars
It is important to keep in mind that LiPo batteries are more resistant to the memory effect but cannot be fully charged as they can be permanently damaged. You must enable the low voltage cutoff (ESC) on your vehicle’s electronic speed controller (RC car) if you plan to use a LiPo lithium battery. This will prevent the LiPo battery from being fully charged.
Although your NiMH battery is stronger, it can suffer from false peaking if it’s not in use for long periods of time or has been new. This is normal for NiMH batteries. When fully charged, a NiMH battery should feel warm to the touch. You can continue the charging cycle until it is. To keep your NiMH batteries in top condition, you must fully discharge them.
What does the number on the battery pack mean?
mAh: Denotes milliampere/hour. It is a measurement of capacity, similar to a fuel tank volume. It is a measure of power over time that gives you an indication of the device’s run time. A 500mA continuous current battery of 5000mAh will give you about an hour’s run time. However, conditions can affect the run time.
Voltage – The nominal voltages for NiMH and LiPo batteries cells are 1.2V & 3.7V, respectively. A NiMH battery that has 7.2V will have six cells. A LiPo battery with 7.4V will have two cells. A LiPo battery that has a voltage preceding an ‘S” value (e.g. 2S) means the two cells are in series.
C rating: (LiPo only). This is the speed at which a battery can drain without damaging it. This is a value that helps you find the answer, not the answer. You get the C rating multiplied with the capacity (in Amps not milliamps).
An example is the best way to explain it. A RC car may have a continuous current draw 60A and a burst (only used during acceleration) 100A. The car will need 60A and 100A respectively. A 2500mAh LiPo battery has a continuous discharge rating 40C and a burst rating 80C.
Recommendations for RC car batteries
When it comes to battery brands, it’s best to stick to trusted ones. Badly made batteries can cause serious damage to the device they are connected to, and even lead to death. To ensure that your RC car can take the battery, make sure you check its dimensions.
There are many connector types available. There are a few different connector types available for Traxxas and Tamiya. Be aware of these when purchasing new batteries or chargers.
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