The Great Debate: Nitro VS Electric

May 05, 2011 36 Comments by

I’m a nitro guy all the way and will be that way for as long as I’m involved in this great hobby. But I do see more and more electric vehicles popping up at the track and hobby shop which means that electric power has taken over. Yes, I have reviewed many electric vehicles for the magazine and they are cool but I don’t think they can ever be as cool as nitro powered vehicles. I love the sound and smell that comes from a nitro engine and I like the little bit of a challenge that you get when tuning one. Being able to tune an engine has won many races for me because the other guy was slightly off and his engine flamed out. Being able to fuel up while the engine is still running is another great advantage to nitro. So besides insane speed, what are your reasons for owning an electric vehicle?

Featured News, Kevin Hetmanski

About the author

Simply put, I’m all about nitro. Well, almost. I’m down with electric for crawlers and some indoor racing, but if you really want to get my attention, it better make some smoke and noise. I’m a regular racer and I usually go with 1/8-scale buggy and truggy. When I’m not racing, I am usually fabricating custom parts and even entire vehicles.

36 Responses to “The Great Debate: Nitro VS Electric”

  1. Matt says:

    I love nitro, but after a 10 hour day at work, it is just easier for me to come home and plug a battery up and go. That is probably the only reason that I own an electric vehicle.

  2. Shaun says:

    I live in a Wet/Cold/Hot/humid/Dry – Depending on Nature’s mood. (Oregon) and It is so tiresome to tune the motor every day.

    Electric is:
    - just as Torque’ie as Nitro.
    - Just as tunable chassis wise
    - When you get to castle setups, the tuning of the motor becomes impressive.
    - Cleaner (not green, Physically cleaner. =P )
    - I can talk to a fellow driver while driving.
    - Neighbors don’t loathe me.

    and more, but i’m lazy.

    I love my electrics, I like the whine they give as they roostertail up the track. I used to be a Nitro guy, and decided about a year ago, it was time. I don’t have hours to spend on my Nitros anymore and I certainly won’t go back after this very happy switch.

    The smell and Noise only goes so far.

  3. mike says:

    i own an electric vehicle because i just wanted 2 get going, i didn’t want 2 bother with the tuning or anything like that. also the water proofing on the electric vehicles make them pretty much able 2 go anywhere u want and electric can keep up with a nitro and sometimes even beat them.

  4. Randy says:

    1/8 Electric has brought the class/platfom to the individual racer. Nitro racing is a 2 man sport, the driver and the pit guy.

    Now a single person can run 1/8 cars by his or herself.

  5. Yep says:

    The best thing about electric is that it’s not nitro.

  6. BIG DOE says:

    I race electric for the convenience of low maintenance and no engine tuning. I also like the torque of electric motors.

  7. Joseph says:

    I enjoy Nitro. I think that long races in which pit stops, and tuned engines are a challenge to all racers, which it makes it fun. It also sounds cool when more than one vehicle passes by, the sound is awesome.

  8. Keith S. says:

    As much as I agree with you on the “romance” aspect of nitro engines, it’s just so much easier to run electric these days. Plus, if I run down my batteries, I don’t have to drive across town and hope the hobby store is open and/or has the fuel I need.

  9. avery schwab says:

    i think that electric is better for the environment. as for me i have asthma so nitro doesn’t like me. electric is safer in that there is no fuel or major heat. that’s my two cents.

  10. Fishhook says:

    I like both. I agree that the nitro vehicles definitly have the coolness factor to them but, the simplicity and ease of electric is why I favor it a little more. I also don’t have to worry about comsuming nitro fuel. For the same price as a gallon of nitro fuel, I can get a decent battery that will last me many many more weekends. I first decided to go with electric because I found that I hated cleaning nitro engines… I already have to clean the truck… and now I have to break the engine down… ughhh. I still enjoy driving nitro vehicles and love the sound and smell, and when all the neighborhood dogs go crazy trying to chase it…. but I will always favor electric just a little more.

  11. Basil Weyers says:

    Thumbs up to Nitro, Electric to quiet but everone to there own.

  12. Jeff says:

    I love both nitro and electric. Nitro has the smoke, noise, and mechanical challenge. Electric has ease of use, convenience, and allows you to run in the snow. So, why choose, just enjoy the best of both worlds!

  13. jeremy says:

    Mainly they are easier yes the nitros are more fun to watch but it is crazy to watch the nitro people go nuts when something goes wrong I like the fact that I put s battery in and go …faster bigger battery slower smaller I enjoy it that way

  14. Tony R says:

    I fly nitro heli’s and used to fly nitro planes. The sound of nitro cars is cool, I have to admit, but the main problem I see is that nitro cars really can only be run in certain places, (tracks or sanctioned club area’s), because of the noise and exhaust. I like electric for cars because if I need an urgent RC fix, I can just take an electric RC car out the back garden, or even the front garden, and give it a quick thrash without annoying the neighbours or attracting unwanted attention.
    And is not insane speed a reason in itself? :-) :-)

  15. George says:

    I’ve been a nitro guy for a long time. 10 years ago I switched to gasoline powered airplanes because I grew tired of the mess nitro makes and the cost of fuel and I don’t miss them one bit. Now I’m finding myself feeling the same way about nitro cars. I started off with electric (a Hornet) and now that I have a new electric truck, I’m amazed at how far they’ve come. I see myself getting a few more electrics in the future and I’ve even been eyeballing some of the old school Tamiya cars that I wanted when I was a kid. I’ll always have a few nitro cars but I’m really liking plugging in a battery and hitting the track. The coolest thing for me, when it flips over I don’t have to worry about it starving for fuel.

  16. hotwheeler69 says:

    WE have 4 Nitro and every time I get it right, next time its wrong. befor Lipo I would stay with Nitro, but now Lipo is the way to go. :> Now we also have 14 Electric cars, 5 eHeli, 4 eBoats, 2 ePlanes, 1 eTank and 1 eMouse. its just e-Easyer. :>

  17. Calvin says:

    instant torque

  18. Ken O says:

    I find cost to be a big factor for me , with the advent of brushless motors/ESC’s and LiPo batteries electric finally had the power and speed of nitro but was pretty expensive still . Nitro was still much cheaper to run though .

    Now that prices have come down (and are still getting cheaper) startup cost for electric is much less than it was several years ago , batteries and motor systems are much more reliable and can out last a nitro engine several times over , power is the same everytime you run the car , some may say that the tuning aspect of nitro makes it fun , but electric allows you to play with chassis tuning because you dont have to worry about tuning the engine .
    Not to mention if you really wanna run with the big dogs you need a high end mill and most of those start at 200 or more and can go as high as 400+ and are gonna need a rebuild after 3-4 gallons if running a good race tune ! While a good brushless system starts around 250-300 and will last several seasons of racing with only a simple bearing change needed (possibly) .

  19. Crazy jr says:

    I have played with nitro’s, I crossed over when brushless was still in it’s infancy. But i have returned to my electric roots, ease of cleaning and cheaper in the long run were my reasons. My only problem with nitro is, believe it or not, the lack of tuning options for fuel racing. With electrics, you can tune with a rotor, or a wind to gain torque or run time, you can also tune how the power comes in better than with a nitro. Nitro’s, without increasing size, you are very limited on what you can really do for power and run time

    that’s my reasons, sorry if most might not agree

  20. Elk says:

    I used to think nitro engines were cool as well, that is until I bought my first 1/5 vehicle. I haven’t run a nitro since the first generation HPI Baja. Why bother with the raspy motor noise when I can have the sound of a two stroke dirtbike from my GBE endbleed pipe? Why have all the mess, tuning issues, or expense of nitro fuel?

    Nitro’s peak was during the late 90′s when battery tech in 1/10 and 1/8 was not where it is today and gas powered 1/5 was still relatively fragile. That time is gone. Electrics are super fast, relatively cheap and reliable. Gassers are more prevalent than ever before. I should also mention that they have less chance of a runaway than a nitro in the we (the correct users) run both a failsafe and an automatic killswitch. I own several brushless vehicles and several gasoline powered ones, but no nitros. I’ve outgrown them and so has the market (at least in my opinion).

    Enjoy whatever vehicle you run, that is what this hobby is all about. Nitro certainly isn’t dead, nor will it disappear anytime soon, there are simply other, more favorable options around.

  21. Guga says:

    I was a nitro guy since I started in this hobby some years ago but when my son grew up and started to have interest in my cars it was clear that nitro was not an option for him so I moved to electric and now we can get together and have fun not worrying to tune engine and refuel. When I was running nitro my kid never want to stay close to the car because the sound scares him, first time he saw an electric car he wanted to play together and this was the way I was hook up in electric. Today I needed to double my cars since now I have 2 1/8 buggies and 2 1/8 truggies (1 electric and 1 nitro) but it is worth every penny.
    At last, not least, I think dealing with the instant torque of electric makes me a better driver since you need to have more finesse to control an electric car than a similar nitro one.
    But for racing I love the challenge of tunning and refueling nitro vehicles not to mention the sound and smell.

  22. thomas says:

    Hi there,
    I am pretty new to the RC hobby, started a year ago…
    I already own 4 cars, one of them is electric, the rest is Nitro.

    I live in Canada (montreal) and there is no indoor track for nitro, Hence me getting a slash 4*4.

    Most of my friends are Lipo fans, either started on electric or are turning to it.
    On my side, I have to admit that Lipo is “tempting” ease of use, no tuning, less parts to mess with, no after run maintenance etc… plug and go. Yes this is very tempting, not even talking about the power of Lipo….
    But in the end, the main difference is that for me, the hobby is 50/50. 50 percent enjoying driving/racing but the other is on the bench.
    I may be masochistic but I love spending time on the bench, love practicing my tuning abilities, loving it all.
    Most of my friends are more 90/10, 90% racing 10% on the bench, and Lipo is the way to go. Does well on the track (amazingly well) and well on the “not needing to be on the bench”.

    Also, I I have a super strong love/hate relationship with tuning… It can be OH so frustrating when you start chasing a good tune… but on the other hand, with a great tune, it is more “this is performing because of ME” than “this lipo technology is great and consistent”.

    So maybe Nitro is a bit more masochistic :D

    I love and am sometime jealous of my lipo friends, but in the end, whenever I start an engine… this sound, this smell… can’t beat that.

    Thom.

  23. Kevin Hetmanski says:

    Looks like we have a lot of people here who are for electric. I still say that Nitro is better and Gas is even better than that. Love the smell of 2-stroke in the AM.

  24. George White says:

    I like nitro Better, but Electric is fun when i drove brushless and Lipo. I do not care for the electric price side. I already have all my nitro stuff and if I went to electric I would have to invest another 1k for the electronics.(The good stuff not cheap HK stuff)
    320 brushless system, 250+ for hyperion charger, 150+ for 40 amp power supply, 100-150+ per battery pack, 90+ for good soldering iron, 40 for plugs,adapters, etc., 80-120 for conversion kits.
    All this just for 1 vehicle. Now if I wanted all 3 of my 1/8 scales to be brushless the price would double or triple.
    This is me and what I would choose to run, You may run differant stuff and be way cheaper.

  25. ed rummel says:

    i like electricic because of the new brushless system r just better lets face it …. the sky is the limit .. toruqe speed andmanitance free almost ..that y i like eletroc

  26. Shawn_S says:

    Electrics are popular for the same reasons the Nissan GT-R is popular as a supercar, you don’t have to learn to go fast. Don’t want to have to deal with a manual, or learn how to control a RWD vehicle? The GT-R is there. Don’t want to have to learn how to tune a nitro engine, or put up with starting/maintenance/care of a nitro? The electrics are there for you…

    I’ll always race nitro myself. The ‘issues’ associated with nitro, can be overcome. I can see if some people can’t tune nitros, or won’t learn how, why they would make the switch. But to me, 1/8th nitro, either on-road or off-road, still represents the pinnacle of this hobby, hands down. Even if elec’s are faster, nothing electric can replicate the start of a 12-car nitro Amain.

  27. Ted says:

    Personally I like electric more, but I feel that both are fun and very different.

    One thing that I really would like to see is at the top racign level there only be one class of buggys. And leave the drivers to decide between Electric or Nitro! I think it would give an extra aspect to the race.

    Nitro would have to make more pit stops for fuel, but they would be much faster. Plus they have to take weather into account for the tune.

    Electric would last a little longer and make fewer pit stops, but they would be much longer due to changing the lipo. The electics may have to worry more about heat, so it may settle the pace.

    I feel that racing them together would make the racing more exciting and put pressure on the drivers to choose the right power plant for the surface or conditions.

  28. JAFO says:

    I love both. The biggest issue I have is that I am a noob on the local scene and I do not know anytone at the local track so getting someone to pit for me during a nitro race will be hard.

    With my electric, I just plug in and go and don’t have to deal with the local clicks trying to get someone to pit for me during a nitro race.

  29. Nitrohobbiest (Mike) says:

    I love nitro and electric about equally. I’m not afraid to tune a nitro engine because I understand it. I’m a motorhead at heart so operating a nitro R/C truck is a no-brainer. Its fun and gives a sense of accomplishment when you get it tuned just right. And once its tuned, you just go for the day. Refuel and go some more! However electric is plain easy. Once you have a vehicle dialed in with the correct gearing and programming, you can pretty much focus on charging your batteries and driving. And the power potential! Oh the power! Its amazing at how dang fast you can make these cars and trucks go. I mean standing wheelies even after rolling at speeds above 30 mph. I haven’t seen a nitro do that yet.
    But nitro is what powers all of my Monster Trucks and its very suited in these platforms. You get the power, the sound and the smoke… all traits of a real truck. And for those with a two speed transmission, it sounds like the Indy 500 going past you. Fun fun fun! I will say, reverse on an electric has no ill effects like it does on a nitro. The nitro suffers from the added weight of an extra servo, and the rolling mass of added gears, as well as the lag time involved in shifting from forward to reverse and back again. Of course this is from a basher’s point of view.

  30. sono says:

    The best thing about electric is that it’s not nitro …i went my local track to run pra. an when i showed up there was a guy trying to start his nitro buggy…i set up my pit and talk to some people 30 min later i want to run so i grab my truck turn it on an ran finally that guy got it started..it only ran for about 2 min an quit..he was play with it the rest of the day wrenching not running…yea

  31. Seven says:

    I have to say that I started in this hobby with electric(cars,trucks), but after I gained more experience I moved to nitro and haven’t looked back since. There is nothing electric,for me that compares to the sound, looks or experience of nitro. Even to the people I know who are not into the hobby. When I show them an electric rc next to a nitro, they always are drawn in by the nitro. They have even said that the $1,800.00 electric looks like a toy, while they say the nitro looks like a miniature realistic machine. I have to say though without electric rc, our hobby would be mostly inaccessible to the new comer though…and even though I am a nitro head, I love every part of this great hobby.

  32. Dean says:

    I say run 5th scale gassers. They are the cheapest in the long run out of all of them. I hate nitros. Electrics are getting better these days but cost to much as of know. The r/c indrusty needs to realize the 1/5 scale gasser uprise an start producing more products an hosting more races

  33. Antonio says:

    I love both. I love just being able to plop in some batteries and bash at will at any time and in almost any place. I ALSO love Nitros because of the fact that I get to tinker with all the moving parts and this being a hobby…Isn’t that the point really? The sound and smoke are added benefits but the “Hobbying” is really where its at and this can be achieved with both Electric and Nitro…really…

  34. Kaleb says:

    there are many cranky people in our neighborhood and it just would not work to have nitro becuase of the noise. i know it sounds cool and everything, but to pay so much more for some sound and smoke? thats must not for me AT ALL.

  35. Julio says:

    I agree with everyone until now, personally i like both although i just got into the hobby and have the same amount of nitros as electrics. Sometimes i just dont have the time to get home and have to deal with the nitro engin which can honestly be a pain at points, this is why in week days electrics are just so much more efficient and not to mension faster to. On the other hand, nitros in the weekends are very pleasent to hear the noise and the smell and stand out from other electrics. When you have time definatly nitro, week days definatly electric. Again, i choose both, this is just what i like.

  36. Ron says:

    Hey all, I used to run a nitro rusty, but when prices went up with fuel and plugs, I stuck to my roots of this wonderful hobby and ran and still run electric, a tad cheaper, fast and will run the same way either the next day or two years from now, not saying a nitro wouldnt(if properly stored). I do miss the sound, the smell and the sheer awesomeness of a nitro powerplant, trust me I do, but the whole neighbor thing is so true as I have a track in my back yard and I live in a neighborhood….plus I do run my trucks at night as well…so…..but Im not hatin on a nitro engine!

Copyright © 2014 Air Age Media. All rights reserved.