Szabó, Péter - pgpetike
25 March 2019

Nitro vs Electric
Which one to choose?

This is an endless argument: nitro or electric. Both have got their fanatics, but - as always in this hobby - there is no exact answer. Bad news, you will have no exact answer at the end of this page either. But we try to help you to make your own decision.

Nitro vs Electric

Electric technology has developed a lot in recent years, it was much easier to make a decision back in the past. In general both technologies can provide similar performance today, but in details they are completely different.

This is not a question in smallers sizes, simply because there's no alternative of electric motors. But in 600 class and above the option is open. What to choose? Well, it depends on many conditions.

Electric helicopters are simpler, just because of the technology. No clutch, no fifth servo, just the ESC and the motor. However, these components in good quality are really expensive. At the end of the day, the costs are similar as in case of nitro, they are affected by your personal preferences and - of course - your wallet as well.

You have got fewer options with nitro in terms of engines, but that's why it is harder to make a bad decision. All are well designed and quality engines. Even the throttle servo cannot be a problem. Number of the models is lower, as not all models are available in nitro edition.

Big question: flying behaviour differences

Electric helicopters fly as they do - as you think. But it matters, where you live around the planet. Closer to the equatory you are lucky, no problems at all. But as you move towards the poles, this question is not quite simple. Batteries get lazy in cold temperature, especially in winter times. If you want to fly in minuses, over the snow, well, not your fingers will be the only problem. Batteries are unable to provide the same performance when they are cold. When you are flying smaller helis, this is not a big deal, you can put the next pack into your pocket in your coat inside whilst you are flying with the previous one, and the next one will get warm enough for the next flight. But imagine this with two massive 5000mAh 6 cell packs, especially on a tray: that is not too comfortable for flying or just standing there. Option B: put it in the car, and turn the engine on to keep the car warm. It is doable, when you are parking next to the flight line, otherwise warming up batteries remains a problem to solve.

When there's no chance to warm them up before the flight, first half of the flight is going to be flying figure 8. Then the rest of the time is yours - more or less. Also a problem: no way to fly in gloves - I tried, I couldn't. But your fingers freeze. It is impossible to fly the time through under 5°C,. A flight is about 3-4 minutes long, then you must land whilst you can. You can enjoy the flight for one whole minute finally.

However the nitro helicopters. Winter and the cold are the bests for them. Air is quite dense, more oxygen can get in the engine during the same intake, and less fuel required for the lubrication. In addition engine remains cold. Heli will be strong and powerful throughout the flight, you can enjoy it for 3-4 minutes depending on your fingers. Winter is the best time for nitro.

This difference turns opposite in summer, engine has to be checked time by time to prevent overheating. And less oxygen gets into the engine, more fuel is required. But they still behave oppositely. Electric ones are more powerful at the beginning of the flight, then as the batteries discharge, helicopters get weaker. Manoeuvres requiring more power can be flown better at the beginning of the flight.

Nitro is less powerful at the beginning. Then as the fuel goes, more air gets in the engine. This curve is quite flat, so you can fly the same manoeuvres at any time during the flight, although the helicopter will be a bit stronger towards the end, but this change is not so significant as at the electric ones.

Electric one needs batteries charged up. You must know, you are going to fly, and you can spend hours to charge all packs up. With nitro, you need to have one (or two) BEC battery, then filling the tank up, and ready to go. No serious planning required. However at the end of the day, electric one goes back to your home, and job done. Try to do it with a nitro one: Everything is covered by oil, especially after a strong 3D, helicopter needs cleaning.

Price also matters

It is a myth, you have got your batteries, no flying costs. Each pack can work for a particular time, or can function for a particular number of charging cycles. This number is about 100. If you are lucky or you have got good packs, this number will get closer to 200, but sometimes some blue, purple or yellow cheap ones can't survive even 30. Your cost is the price of the pack divided by the number of flights made. Nitro calculation is easier: this much is gone, this is the price. But sadly, this number is going to be higher than the previous one. Nitro is more expensive than electric. How much more expensive depends on your country and the local taxation rules and prices, but nitro is a lot more expensive everywhere.

And the feeling?

This is absolute subjective. I really recommend you to listen Bert Kammerer & Kyle Stacy live podcast which was recorded on 8th june 2018, where this was also a question and the guys talked about it pretty well. I love nitro smell, I love the noise made by the engine. I love its nature. And this is how a helicopter is supposed to fly. Electric helicopters are not the same feeling. But when I got my wallet in my hands: electric wins.