Why would you convert Radio Control Gas Plane Engines to Electric RC Motors?
By Carl Baer
Now more than ever it seems that we are entering an era that needs to depend less on fuel burning engines. That even includes radio control airplanes with their nitro-methane gas engines.
How can you ease the burden on gas burning rc engines? Simple, convert your balsa kit, RTF or ARF to an electric engine. In fact, in a lot of areas of the United States it is almost impossible to find a place to fly anything but electric airplanes anymore.
Noise abatement and encroachment on rural areas have really affected the number of places left where you can fly gas engine rc planes. It’s simple, as the population grows, there are fewer places left to fly rc airplanes safely. In fact, most rc clubs are abandoning gas powered model airplanes, and trading in their gas engines for electric power plants. Why? because their “new” neighbors do not want loud gas powered aircraft flying past their homes (even though they were not there first). Instead of closing the club, they are encouraging their members to convert their aircraft to electric powered aircraft. This eliminates most of the noise and allows them to keep flying.
I have given in to the electric era and have been converting most of my rc airplanes to electric motors. This is not to say that I still enjoy the power and thrill of rc gas engines, but it is getting harder to find a place to fly it and not be bothered by residents that think you are encroaching on their peace and quiet. This is not to say that converting rc gas engines to electric is as simple as switching out motors. In fact there is a lot to consider when doing a rc gas engine conversion to rc electric motors.
You have to consider all of the following…
- C.G. – The center of gravity for your model aircraft has just been greatly changed. All that weight of the metal gas engine needs to be balanced somehow.
- Flying time - Gone are the days of just filling up the tank and going up again. Now you need to manage battery packs and keep them on a charging cycle and make sure not to over use them.
- Chargers – Be prepared to learn a lot about chargers (DC for your car), different types of battery packs NiCad, NiMh, Li-ion and Lithium Polymer (the newest and most challenging to charge).
- Battery Monitoring Devices – Things like ESC (electronic speed control), LVC (low voltage cutoff), Battery Model numbers lingo.
- Gearbox – Do I need one, how will it effect my battery life. Will it cause my battery to overheat?
There is lots more to consider when it comes to electric airplane motors, but in the long run it will be worth it to at least convert one of your current models to electric from the old rc gas burning engine.
One Final Thought: Electric radio control airplanes are not completely free from fuel dependency, after all we need to charge those batteries, and to do this, where does the power come from? it comes from coal burning power plants (a few nuclear, hydro-electric, solar, wind and natural gas power plants too). So the question is, what is the lesser of two evils? Well, when you consider the refinery that has to also power to create the nitro methane fuel for your gas rc engines, it does seem a better choice to select an electric engine.
If you are really concerned about the environmental impact, there are some ways to offset the production of your energy and gas usage. You can purchase carbon credits, or even ask your local power company to offset your power consumption with wind power. Both of these alternatives are a good way to balance your use of power and gas for your electric radio controlled aircraft and nitro-methane gas use.
If you have any comments or need more help, I would be glad to answer any question you have.
Please post a question Below. Or you can leave a comment about this article. You can also write just to say hi:). This is one big community and it’s great to get to know other electric radio controlled plane pilots.
Good Luck, and Happy Buying and Flying,
I have been flying and building radio controlled airplanes, helicopters, boats and cars for over 20 Years. I have been specifically building and flying electric airplanes for over 10 years. My latest interest is to convert balsa wood kits with gas engines, to models with electric motors. This has been more realistic to do lately because of the huge leap in battery technology and it has been a very fun way to still make balsa kit planes from scratch, but not worry about any gas problems.
If you would like to know more about how you can build Balsa Kits too, then check out my complete building system book on How To Make RC Airplanes
Send your question to email@example.com — and you may see your question answered in a future HTMRCA Article.
To contact us…
If you have any questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org