RCU Review: Team Losi Electric 8ight vs. Nitro 8ight

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    Contributed by: RC Driver Magazine | Published: November 2007 | Views: 83963 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon

    Published with express permission and consent of
    MapleGate Media Group dba RC Driver Magazine

    By: RC Driver Team

    It all began with a phone conversation with Rob from Robinson Racing. ?Dude, I?m gonna send you this car that I have. It?s an electric 1/8-scale buggy, and the thing just plain rips. Call me after you drive it!? Not more than a week later, the car in question arrived at the Driver office; it was a Team Losi 8IGHT that had been converted to electric power. There was a large brushless motor where the bigblock engine would have been; where the pipe and throttle servo should have been, there were two lightweight LiPo battery packs; and a Castle Creations Mamba Max ESC sat in place of the nitro car?s fuel tank. With packs charged, we headed to the parking lot to rip some laps (judging by the condition of the supplied tires, Rob had already spent quite a bit of time doing the same). Punch and speed were off the chart, and the car could be made to wheelie at nearly any speed.

    What was most impressive, however, was how smooth the powerband felt: it was like driving a bigger version of a 1/10-scale off-road buggy. It didn?t take long for us to hatch a plan to compare Rob?s E-8IGHT with Frank?s nitro 8IGHT to see whether this emerging battery and motor technology is really ready for primetime.

    Head to Head


    We have seen a number of 1/8-scale vehicles
    converted to brushless power, but this particular conversion strikes us as being the most commonsense for a number of reasons. First, the E-8IGHT weighs exactly the same as its nitro counterpart, so all the setups, shock oils and springs that work on the nitro car will work on the electric version. When much heavier battery packs are used, ?known? setups can no longer be relied on. Balance is also a critical factor, and this conversion very closely mimics the balance of the nitro 8IGHT. Last, the Mega brushless ACn Car8+ is a relatively low-rpm motor, but it seems smoother, and it definitely produces enough torque to create speed through gearing (as shown by its blistering 47mph speed run). Some brushless motors spin at very high rpm and must be geared down to produce torque and extend run time; the Mega takes an opposite approach. When paired with the 11.1V LiPo batteries (wired in parallel to provide 4400mAh at 11.1 volts), the Car8+ spins at only about 14,500rpm, although the motor is rated at between 20,000 to 30,000rpm.

    The installation uses laser-cut plywood parts from Mega Motor USA. Universal reaction to the plywood by RC racers has been negative?
    even after we explained that it?s light and strong and does the job. Car people want aluminum or carbon; we?ve spoken to Mega
    Motor, and they may well release the parts in aluminum to meet demand. The Car8+ motor is simply bolted to the chassis in place of the nitro engine (the motor is designed to fit a Kyosho chassis, but it can fit other cars with the use of an adapter plate). The motor?s 5mm output shaft accepts Mega Steel Mod 1 pinions (made by RRP), which mesh perfectly with RRP?s steel spur gears. An optional 12V cooling fan is bolted to the motor?s finned aluminum heat-sink case. Plywood trays serve as mounts for the twin packs and for the (optional) fan that sits above the ESC. The batteries are secured using Velcro, but we would prefer a more secure and precise mounting system.


    Team Losi?s 8IGHT is the first 1/8-scale nitro
    buggy produced by an American company.
    Ripe with the innovation we?ve come to expect
    from Losi, the 8IGHT has been incredibly successful during its short career, and in the hands of Losi/Trinity?s Adam Drake, the 8IGHT recently became the ROAR national champ. Chief among the 8IGHT?s numerous innovations is a radical drivetrain that allows the engine to be mounted very close to the chassis? middle, keeping the weight centered for nimble handling and exceptional stability.

    The car used in this comparison is the kit we tested way back in the November 2006 issue. Apart from a few equipment changes, each and every part of our nitro 8IGHT is original and has seen dozens of race days. Our has a powerful O.S. Engines .21VZ-B Vspec mill, high-performance JR Z9000-series servos and a Futaba 3PK transmitter using a 2.4GHz Spektrum Pro system (we also used this radio combo for the E-8IGHT). Losi?s Nitrotane 30 percent fuel provided the necessary combustion.

    How do you top a potent O.S. Engines .21VZ-B Vspec and a Jammin? JP-3 pipe?
    POWERPLANT Mega Brushless ACn Car8+ O.S. .21VZ-B Vspec
    SOURCE 2 2200mAh 11.1V LiPo packs 125cc of 30% nitro fuel
    THROTTLE CONTROL Castle Creations Mamba Max JR Z9000T digital servo
    BRAKES Electronic (through ESC) Dual fiberglass discs
    WEIGHT 115.2 oz. 113.6 oz. (w/out fuel)
    TOP SPEED 47mph (as tested) 44.55mph (as tested)
    RUN TIME 12 to 15 min. 1 hour (approx. w/fuel stops)
    PRICE* $1,300 (estimate) $1,160
    *Price includes everything on rolling chassis except receivers and transmitters.
    Does not include appropriate battery chargers.


    LiPo cells are reliable and safe when used correctly. But as it?s always better to be safe than sorry, we?ll reiterate a couple of key rules for handling them:

    • Use only a charger that has a specific LiPo mode.
    • LiPo cells should be charged at a rate of 1C (in the case of
      our 2200mAh packs, the correct rate of 1C would be approximately
      2 amps).
    • LiPo batteries can ignite if overheated, overcharged or
      shorted, so it?s always good to use a charging/storing ?sack?
      such as the Li-Poly Sack from Racers Edge (racers-edge.com,
      item no. RCE2007, $28).


    For the sake of equality, we set both cars up as closely as possible (using a slight variation of Mike Truhe?s 2007 Nitro Challenge setup:our cars used thinner diff oil: 3/5/1, instead of Truhe?s 5/7/2). GRP mounted Cubic tires (GMH03A) to each car, and we tested them over several days at Wolcott Hobby & Raceway in Wolcott, Connecticut.


    We had no doubt that the E-8IGHT would clearly win in this category, and there weren?t any surprises. Electric motors make maximum torque at their lowest rpm, whereas a nitro engine must build rpm to increase torque. So an electric power system will always out-accelerate a nitro system of comparable output. In a real-world application, the E-8IGHT is more of a handful to drive: it is less efficient at translating its considerable torque into traction at lower speeds, so it takes a gentler approach?and more concentration?to avoid unwanted wheelspin. By contrast, the nitro 8IGHT is more forgiving of an aggressive trigger finger, although it required more buildup to clear larger jumps. The E-8IGHT cleared virtually everything from a dead stop, including the Wolcott track?s quad-jump section?a feat out of the nitro car?s reach
    Winner: E-8IGHT

    This is the most subjective category in this comparison, as gearing plays a large role in any vehicle?s potential for speed. That being said, with both cars geared for the track, the E-8IGHT?s best pass yielded a flat 47mph past our Stalker radar gun. The nitro 8IGHT blazes by just a tick below at 44.55mph. That?s a draw in our book, as both powerplants are capable of pulling taller ratios that would undoubtedly push them both well past 50mph. On the track, the E-8IGHT?s ability to get up to speed more quickly was negated by its reduced traction under hard acceleration, making its marginal speed advantage a wash against the grip of the nitro car.
    Winner: Tie

    This was a very difficult category to call, but in the end, the acceleration of the E-8IGHT gave it a very slight edge over the nitro 8IGHT. Both cars flew well and were easily adjusted midair by using the throttle and brake, but the E-8IGHT consistently cleared larger jumps, even if the length of the approach was diminished by a bobble or by an altercation with traffic. As mentioned in the acceleration category, the E-8IGHT cleared a long quad-jump section (which everyone else considered a triple-single) that the nitro 8IGHT just couldn?t complete. To translate this into an advantage, the E-8IGHT is more forgiving of driving error when precise timing is needed to complete technical jump sections.
    Winner: E-8IGHT


    Traction boils down to three variables: surface grip, tire grip and the forces that try to separate the tire from the surface. Of these forces, the one that comes most into play when comparing the nitro 8IGHT and E-8IGHT is torque. Torque is what produces wheelspin and loss of traction when applying the throttle, and as the E-8IGHT produces maximum torque at the lowest rpm, it?s natural that it would have less traction than its nitro counterpart. The Mamba Max ESC does its best to curb the initial hit of the motor (it also helps to dial the radio?s throttle channel to a negative value), but there?s just so much tire-shredding spank available that only a judicious throttle finger provides a workable solution. Driving the E-8IGHT simply requires more attention and a smoother application of the throttle to get the power to the ground.
    Winner: Nitro 8IGHT

    Even with its electric powertrain, the E-8IGHT has virtually the same handling traits as the nitro 8IGHT, so the two cars are virtually identical in terms of steering response. Apart from an on-power oversteer that?s absent from the nitro car, the E-8IGHT exhibited initial and mid-turn steering on par with it. In contrast to the nitro 8IGHT, the brushless motor system provided a slightly noticeable coast-braking, which most drivers viewed as a positive trait and one that reduced the need to manually apply brakes when slowing for turns. With similar weights, balance and suspension setups, the electric and nitro 8IGHTs are essentially twins in terms of how they steer, although the E-8IGHT felt more aggressive.
    Winner: Tie


    We had reservations about the E-8IGHT?s braking ability, as the Econversion eliminates the mechanical dual-disc setup. The ESC applies brakes to the transmission?s spur gear, at which time, the stopping force is transmitted through the car?s center diff and apportioned to the front and rear wheels according to available traction and the shifting of the chassis? weight. As a result, braking balance changes with conditions, and most of the stopping force manifests
    itself at the rear wheels. Surprisingly, the E-8IGHT stopped quite well and didn?t lose grip even when braking deep into turns. A stiffer center diff improves front-to-rear braking balance, while the opposite is true when the center diff is set more loosely. As expected, the powerful dual discs of the nitro 8IGHT proved superior, but both systems exhibited only minimal fade?a testament to the excellent Mamba Max ESC.
    Winner: Nitro 8IGHT

    HIGHS. Superior acceleration, blistering top speed, quieter and cleaner than nitro, fewer moving parts to wear, no engine vibration.

    LOWS. Brakes through center differential, cannot complete longer Mains without battery swaps, recharge time, more susceptible to heat issues.

    VERDICT. The electric-powered 8IGHT has more punch than its nitro cousin, and it?s actually a bit faster on the straights, but it takes a lot longer to ?refill? a battery pack than to fill a nitro vehicle?s fuel tank.

    HIGHS. Makes great noises, easier to drive,
    runs as long as there?s fuel and voltage, front and rear disc brakes.

    LOWS. Loud, messy, expensive fuel, more moving parts to wear, engine vibration wreaks havoc on electronics.

    VERDICT. It?s hard to beat the sound and excitement of a nitro-powered 1/8-scale buggy, but some people are turned off by the smell, noise and mess associated with nitro engines.


    Although the scoring indicates a dead heat, we unanimously picked the nitro 8IGHT as being superior for track duties. Like all 1/8-scale buggies, the 8IGHT was designed around the power delivery of a .21 nitro engine. Its drivetrain, clutch and even its suspension and chassis layout are optimized for nitro power. While the electric powertrain is, on paper, a match for a big-block nitro engine, the increased torque of the brushless system did, at times, overwhelm the vehicle?s dynamics and reduce stability and grip. We?ve concluded that spending more time on setting up the chassis and suspension would narrow the gap. To be sure, it takes a different style of driving to pilot the E-8IGHT; the ?blip-blip? throttle action used for nitro must be replaced by a smooth, consistent pull of the trigger to avoid wheelspin.

    The result of all of this is a keen look into the future of the RC hobby. We have no doubt that brushless-powered larger-scale vehicles will be the next big trend, and the E-8IGHT shown here is proof-positive of the potential of 1/8-scale electric. Based on our time driving the nitro and electric cars back to back, it would take only a little more refinement of the brushless package to seriously challenge the established nitro class. We hypothesized that some sort of mechanical brake system, and perhaps even a nitro-style clutch, might bring the drivability of the E-8IGHT in line with the nitro car?s.

    Doing this comparison, we think we have glimpsed the future of the RC car hobby. Looking at what is happening in 1/10 scale, it?s clear that brushless motor systems are here to stay. But until very recently, brushless power systems were limited to the smaller scales. While nitro continues to dominate the market, breakthroughs in brushless motor, ESC and LiPo battery technologies have made the larger scales more accessible to those who prefer their power to come from battery chemistry and not combustion chemistry.

    Mark these words: you will see electric-powered 1/8- scale vehicles such as the E-8IGHT coming from major manufacturers? and sooner than you think.

    Comments on RCU Review: Team Losi Electric 8ight vs. Nitro 8ight

    Posted by: rcacer35 on 01/22/2008
    Posted by: Cainlord on 02/01/2008
    With Novak coming out with there own conversion for 1/8 scale buggies, and revamping there HV ESC to be more robust, and Castle creations making a Monster Mamba Max ESC with Neu spec'd motor package for about $300, this could really be the big new thing. I personally have a converted MBX5 buggy that will get 20+ minutes on a charge, and you don't need to play the waiting game like NIMH for charging. Amazing power.
    Posted by: streetracer745 on 02/02/2008
    I just converted my Revo to electric(literally just did it, finished like an hour ago) and after simply driving around in my street for 10 minutes with my 11.1v lipo, mamba max, and mega ACn22/30/1(3500kv), I will no doubtedly say that Electric is faster. On the track i can see the low end power as a downfall, but for tight areas where bite is high and hard accleeration is need, I would put everything that electric will rip a nitro to shreds. How about a video of the two buggies?
    Posted by: HandyRacing on 02/10/2008
    I just LOVE the speed and performance without the noise, fumes, constant tweaking and cost of fuel and replacement motors. After telling my son no for years as he wanted the power and speed of a Nitro, I'm pleased to say we will soon be rolling with a brushless electric Jammin X1CR. As far as battery tray and motor mounts, I really like the design and quality of the products from Dan @ www.RCProductDesigns.com not to mention that Dan has countless hours of developement in this new world of racing quality electric 1/8 scale rigs. Wood parts?
    Posted by: robert44cj on 03/27/2008
    Posted by: Metallover on 04/12/2008
    wire the batteries in a series to get 22.2 volts. That would be fast.
    Posted by: brushlessboy16 on 06/18/2008
    This reveiw is biased, using a power system that no one else does, using very low Mah lipo. Top Speed- How can you say that the 3mph is negatable.. the fact that its a speed comparison and the e-eight IS faster... Traction- If the testers would have taken advantage of the Mamba Max's programability. With the combonation of Low start power and Punch control you can set it up so that it keeps traction on just about any surface. Why would you only run 3s lipo.. Everyone who competes with brushles conversions is pushing 4 or 5s (14.8-18.5v) and 4000mah, im gettin 1/2 hour of runtime on my 5s 4000mah lipo. And the time needed to change batteries is equal to that of 2 nitro fuel stops, i love how its stated that the nitro can run more then 1 hour.....with fuel stops... The fact that this builder runs 2 batteries with low voltage adds weight and reduces motor rpm... They should have a more mainstream conversion car to compare... for example Losi E-eight Feigao 9xl or Neu motor 4-5s Lipo 4000+ mah I just think the nitro guys are scared of a real brushless car.
    Posted by: PENGUINBLASTER!!! on 06/29/2008
    The Nitro Eight is better suited for the job, a better engine could have made the nitro eight totally superior.
    Posted by: crazybob on 09/02/2008
    It's not just R/C cars. Electric motors are much, much better than internal combustion engines - they're smoother and quieter, but they're also more than twice as efficient. The problem is all about the batteries; with some significant advancements in electrical storage there'll be no competition. Unfortunately, at the moment it costs $500 to buy enough batteries to run for the same length of time in a day as the nitro guy with $15 of fuel.
    Posted by: traxxaspede on 01/18/2009
    yes, but the batteries don't only last a couple runs. they last hundreds of runs
    Page: 1 2 >
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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