Electric vs. Nitro RC Cars

The fastest electric RC car hit a record-breaking speed of 202 mph. Electric cars hold the fastest speed for now. But what about nitro RC cars?

Nitro and electric RC cars look different on the outside, and they're completely different on the inside too. If you're curious about how they differ, let's get into specifics:

Motor or Engine?

The most significant difference between nitro and electric RC cars is the way they get their power. While electric RC cars have a motor, nitro, and gas powered RC cars have an engine.


Electric RC cars use a battery-powered motor to run. Depending on the grade of your RC car, it can contain a brushed or brushless motor.

Brushed Motors

Brushed motors are typically found in toy-grade or beginner hobby grade RC cars. Tiny brushes inside the motor make the motor spin. The two different types of brushed motors--fixed and nonfixed--can change your RC car experience.

Fixed brushed motors are can't be tuned, while nonfixed brushed motors can be fully modified. It's easier to clean a nonfixed brushed motor--you can move the brushes to clean up hard-to-reach debris.

Brushless Motors

Do you have a need for speed? Opt for a brushless motor.

They have an immense amount of power that can even beat a nitro RC car. Only some pro RC tracks have legalized the use of brushless motors.

Brushless motors may be more expensive, but they're powerful and easier to maintain. Brushless motors are brush-free--this makes them easier to clean, and also results in less friction. Less friction means more power and speed.

Brushless motors can also manage a high amount of voltage, giving your RC car another speedy advantage.


On the other hand, nitro RC cars have an engine powered by a methanol-based fuel infused with nitromethane. This engine's structure is the same as one that can be found in a real car. Gas powered RC cars are also similar to nitro RC cars, but they're not used as often.

Like a normal-sized car engine, nitro engines also have air filters, flywheels, crankshafts clutches, pistons, carburetors, full fuel systems, crankshafts, and glow plugs (like spark plugs). A radiator and water pump function inside the engine to prevent it from getting too hot.


The chassis is the frame of your RC car that holds the engine, motor, and receiver. It can either be made from plastic or aluminum, depending on whether your RC car is electric or nitro-powered.

Plastic Chassis

Plastic chassis can be found on toy-grade RC cars, while sturdier plastic is typically found on hobby grade RC cars. You have the option to upgrade your plastic chassis by adding carbon fiber parts. Not only does this increase the strength of your chassis, but it also makes your RC car more lightweight.

Aluminum Chassis

Nitro-powered RC cars need to have an aluminum chassis--plastic would quickly melt under the engine's heat. Aluminum can also help keep your RC car and engine cool.


If you don't know what a drivetrain inside of an RC car is, it's just like the transmission and rear-end in a normal-sized car. The components in the drivetrain make your RC car move when you start the engine or motor.

Plastic Drivetrain

Electric cars not only have plastic chassis, but they also have plastic drivetrains. You're able to swap out the plastic differential for a metal one if you want to make it sturdier.

Metal Drivetrain

Nitro RC cars have metal differentials, due to their engine's high amount of torque. Plastic parts would break under the pressure.


The parts and their location on your RC car all affect its handling. If you want to perform well on a race, you need to have this in check.

The location of your RC car's center of gravity determines your car's performance at fast speeds, on turns, as well as on jumps. If your car's center of gravity is low and steady, your car probably won't flip over or fly off the track.

You need to get the center of gravity right on your nitro-powered RC car. But this will be a challenge--you have to account for the moving fuel in your car's tank. You'll find it a bit easier to find the center of gravity in electric cars, as their structure doesn't shift as much.


A nitro-powered RC car is heavier than an electric one--nitro-powered cars have many parts on top of their metal chassis. Aluminum is light, but it's still not as light as the carbon fiber parts that can be added to electric RC cars.


As we mentioned earlier, nitro and gas RC cars require fuel, while electric cars run on on a battery pack. Getting your RC car to run isn't cheap--battery packs and nitro fuel come at a price.

Battery Packs

The length of your driving session depends on the quality of your battery, and the amount of time it takes to charge it.

You'll get around 15 minutes of driving time with one fully charged battery. One battery takes at least 45 minutes to charge. Even if you bring multiple charged batteries, each battery will give you only 10-15 minutes of driving time.

Prepare to bring a bag full of battery packs if you want to have a long session. A typical LiPo battery pack costs around $32, so that means you might need to shell out a decent amount of cash to keep your car on the road.

Nitro Fuel

You can drive your nitro-powered RC car until you run out of fuel. With a full tank of gas, a nitro RC car will drive for 20-25 minutes--and it only takes a few seconds to pour more fuel into the tank.

You'll fill up your tank 2-3 times if you drive for an hour. A gallon of nitro fuel costs about $25. After 50-60 refills in a 2-2.5oz tank, you'll finally run out of fuel in your gallon.

Choosing Between Electric and Nitro RC Cars

Nitro RC cars and electric RC cars both have speed and power, but they come with advantages and disadvantages. Your RC car's handling, speed, and the state of your wallet all depend on whether you pick an electric or nitro-powered car. Choose wisely.