Go Back  RCU Forums > RC Airplanes > Beginners
Reload this Page >

Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Notices
Beginners Beginners in RC start here for help.

Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Old 01-10-2008, 04:15 PM
  #1  
Tehrab
Junior Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Sparks, NV
Posts: 1
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Greetings everyone. I am just now getting back into RC flight (Last at the controls and flight was in '99) and have been bringing myself up to speed with the newest innovations. One of the intriguing things to me is the apparent advent of viable electric systems for powering our planes. I've done some researching on this forum but the debate always gets very specific to the application at hand. While that conversation is useful, I thought a more generalized review of the two methodologies was in order so, without further adieu, my pro's & con's list:

Fuel Pro's:
[ul][*] Cheaper initial investment[*] Longer flight times[*] No need to recharge[*] Safety, no turning on the plane and having the prop kick up to 8000rpm because the throttle was maxed
[/ul]Fuel Con's:
[ul][*] Long-term costs of fuel[*] More equipment to pack around (glow plugs, starters, plug batteries, pumps, fuel, etc.)[*] Constant cleaning of oiled up models[*] Irregular tuning due to temperature, humidity, altitude, etc.[*] More complex installation (extra servo, rods, fuel lines, etc.)
[/ul]

Electric Pro's:
[ul][*] Cheaper long-term costs[*] Planes are always clean[*] No engine tuning worries[*] Easier to install and configure[*] Not as much stuff to pack around
[/ul]Electric Con's:
[ul][*] Expensive initial investment[*] Easier to harm one's self with a simple mistake[*] Limited flight times per battery charge[*] Long time-to-charge for batteries
[/ul]

I purposely left off stuff like "glow sounds cooler" as that is more a personal preference issue and I would like to keep this list generally accurate. If this winds up prompting a useful discussion, I will try to keep this top list updated with whatever relevant information comes to the surface. Otherwise, what do you all think or have to add to the mix?

Tehrab
Old 01-10-2008, 04:46 PM
  #2  
Sean C
My Feedback: (25)
 
Sean C's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Coral Springs, FL
Posts: 152
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

I fly glow and electric and I'd like to put a couple things in perspective...

Safety:
• Starting a glow engine with the throttle maxed can be just as dangerous.
• Mis-handling of LiPos in electrics can also be dangerous.

Complexity:
• I find fuel planes simpler as far as installation goes. No soldering. No short circuits. I just hate soldering

Charging:
• Fuel planes still need to have a well-charged Rx battery, glow ignitor and any add'l batteries used at the field.
• If you fly a lot of electrics, get yourself a GP PolyCharge 4. I can charge faster than I can fly most of the time.

Here's my take on the whole thing...
With an electric, I can grab the plane, Tx and a battery (or several) and go outside and fly. When I'm done flying, I come home and simply put everything away.
When I fly glow, I usually spend the previous night charging everything up, making sure I have FUEL, extra glow plugs, fuel line, necessary tools, etc. When I'm done flying, I still have to deal with cleaning up the exterior of the plane, taking after-run precautions, emptying the fuel tanks, etc.

My next move is GAS [8D]
Old 01-10-2008, 07:51 PM
  #3  
B.L.E.
Senior Member
 
B.L.E.'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,333
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Costs of electric:
Small electric planes are quite affordable, planes that traditionally were flown with .15 or smaller glow engines use 3 cell lipos that can be charged up with cheap chargers. You can even own a couple of these chargers and have a couple of batteries charging while you're flying. Three cell 2100 mah lipos go for about $80 bucks each, most of us have no problem owning three or four.

On the other hand, if you want to fly electric with planes that were traditionally powered by .60 glow engines, it starts to become stupid-expensive. Now your looking at 6 cell 4500 mah lipos that cost about $280 each. You can't charge these with inexpensive chargers. A charger that will charge these batteries costs about $200. Use your car battery to recharge these batteries and your car might not start after a day of flying so you will also want a power supply that plugs into 115 volts.

On the other hand, once you own a charger and battery packs for a .60 size plane, you can easily build a second, third, or a whole fleet of them and you won't have to re-buy the charger or battery packs.
Old 01-10-2008, 07:56 PM
  #4  
acarter
 
acarter's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: schuylkill haven, PA
Posts: 927
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Although you don't have to buy fuel, the batteries for some of the .40-.60 sized electics can be quite expensive, and they don't last as long as you think.

Austin
Old 01-10-2008, 09:28 PM
  #5  
B.L.E.
Senior Member
 
B.L.E.'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,333
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

I have been keeping a logbook on my .60 size electric plane. I was interested in seeing just how long the batteries last and also it helps me rotate the three packs to equalize the wear. So far I have 208 logged flights on the plane plus a few extra flights done before I started the log. So far, each battery pack has about 70 logged flights and they still perform almost like new. My transmitter countdown timer is set for 10 minutes but I have flown a few minutes longer on occasion when the runway was not clear to land. Not flying to the esc low voltage cutoff point and checking current with an ampmeter after putting a different prop on the motor to make sure I'm not over-amping makes for trouble-free electric flying.
I think a lot of the "my lipo was toast after 25 flights" horror stories come from people who don't think they need an ampmeter and fly until the low voltage cutoff forces them to land. If you need an oven mitt to handle your battery after a flight, you are probably abusing it.
People who think they don't need a amp/watt meter also fry a lot of ESCs and motors.
Old 01-10-2008, 09:32 PM
  #6  
Gizmo-RCU
My Feedback: (27)
 
Join Date: Sep 2002
Location: Athol, ID
Posts: 2,155
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

You can't hear or smell an electric, I rest my case.
Old 01-10-2008, 09:57 PM
  #7  
overbored77
Senior Member
My Feedback: (11)
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Galloway, NJ
Posts: 919
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Gizmo and Acarter,
These are your opinions and the post is about the Pros & the Cons, the original
post asked that we make this general not personal. I like the sound of IC motors also

the Fact is I have 30+ cycles on some of my packs and they haven't lost any MAH
when treated properly. I have a friend who competes on the national level with
electric planes F3A FAI 1.60 sized . He has over 200 cycles on a few packs and they are
showing minimal MAH and performance loss, Again they have been well maintained.

On the other hand I have an OS .61 SF that has seen it's share of flights I have over
150 on it and I got it second hand. Except for needing a set of bearings when I got it,
it has performed flawlessly when properly maintained. I have seen and heard of many
glow engines going into the trash after only a handful of flights because people don't
tune or maintain them properly.

Another pro for electric is the smaller planes can easily be flown in a scoolyard or park
and no one complains about the noise. They do make some noise but not the same sound as
a nitro or gas motor.
Old 01-10-2008, 10:29 PM
  #8  
agexpert
Senior Member
My Feedback: (1)
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Corona, CA
Posts: 1,229
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Electric planes are absolutely great! I fly one almost daily. They can be flown anywhere, you don't need a runway for the small ones and you can generally count on a 2+:1 power to weight ratio.

Someone in this thread proposed that he/she had 30 cycles through a batt, and then refered to a friend who had 200 cycles.

Well, it's pretty simple. A good LiPo will last about 500 cycles. If you buy the JUNK they sell online and at the AMA show, count on about 100 cycles...they're junk.

As for cost...either you can afford what you want or you can't. Both options are expensive and, over time;....about the same.

I fly ONLY Gas and electric. Gassers are the best flying planes I own, and little electrics are great for practice, they are low-risk and you can fly them ANYWHERE.
Old 01-10-2008, 10:29 PM
  #9  
049flyer
My Feedback: (18)
 
049flyer's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Prescott, AZ
Posts: 1,085
Received 3 Likes on 3 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

More things to consider:

1. I have seen Lipo batteries puff up while sitting on the shelf, never sold charged or used. Brand new! They can and sometimes do go bad.

2. Suppose you have one cell of a $200.00 pack go bad. What do you do? Replace the cell or junk the pack?

3. You are SUPPOSED to closely monitor the charging of Lipo batteries. Do you have the time to personally babysit them while they charge?

4. NIMH Batteries are improving rapidly and are not as delicate as Lipos. The difference in weight of a NIMH pack and a similar Lipo pack is not as great as you may think. The weight difference may be insignificant on a larger plane considering you don't need the motor, muffler, rx battery, tank or fuel.

5. NIMH batteries can charge faster, are cheaper and do not have to be monitored or handled with as much care. It is also quite simple to replace one bad cell. Two fast charging NIMH packs may afford you more flight time than 3 Lipo packs that take an hour each to charge.

6. Consider the cost of a crash. A crash is much more likely to ruin a Lipo battery than ruin a glow engine. A crash bad enough to ruin a glow motor will likely also ruin the electric motor and Lipo. Glow engines are much cheaper than Lipo batteries and brushless motors.

7. Fuel is cheap. About $10.00 per gallon around here.

8. I consider electrics MORE dangerous than glow. The electric motor can appear and sound perfectly harmless but bump the throttle at the wrong time and you are in trouble. A glow motor must be started first before it presents a danger. While running it is making noise, smoke and vibrations to warn you of it's capability of causing harm.

I think it comes down to what you like to do. This hobby is so diverse it will keep you busy for several lifetimes! Why limit yourself to one area of interest? Try as much as you can and have fun! Do it all!
Old 01-10-2008, 10:35 PM
  #10  
agexpert
Senior Member
My Feedback: (1)
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Corona, CA
Posts: 1,229
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Electric planes are absolutely great! I fly one almost daily. They can be flown anywhere, you don't need a runway for the small ones and you can generally count on a 2+:1 power to weight ratio.

Someone in this thread proposed that he/she had 30 cycles through a batt, and then refered to a friend who had 200 cycles.

Well, it's pretty simple. A good LiPo will last about 500 cycles. If you buy the JUNK they sell online and at the AMA show, count on about 100 cycles...they're junk.

As for cost...either you can afford what you want or you can't. Both options are expensive and, over time;....about the same.

I fly ONLY Gas and electric. Gassers are the best flying planes I own, and little electrics are great for practice, they are low-risk and you can fly them ANYWHERE.

GET BOTH, fly them often, and ignore anyone who says you 'can't'.
Old 01-10-2008, 10:37 PM
  #11  
danny31292
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: FL
Posts: 230
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

I have found that after I was able to cough up the cash for the batteries and I relized that not all batteries last as long as the should, I noticed how expensive some electrics are. For example the extreme flight 46 - 60 sized plane cost upwards of 250 just for the plane. Evenn some 25 ounce planes cost as much as a a 46 size glow plane. If youll dish out the cash for a good electric I think thats the way to go but if you wont I think you'll miss the different flight characteristics of some of the larger planes and glow would be the way to go . PS I'll never get rid of my airfoilz foamy.
Old 01-10-2008, 10:44 PM
  #12  
fozjared
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: gilmer/nacogdoches, TX
Posts: 594
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

thats right, i fly battery and fuel planes, and enjoy different things about each of them! the one thing i can say about safety and the comparisons, say you have to reverse your throttle, what happens when you reverse it and the electric springs to life and gets you, a fuel plane cant spring to life just because the throttle went to wide open, there is no way a fuel engine can hurt you until you crank it, not so with electric.. my .02!
Old 01-10-2008, 11:41 PM
  #13  
B.L.E.
Senior Member
 
B.L.E.'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Austin, TX
Posts: 1,333
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List


ORIGINAL: fozjared

thats right, i fly battery and fuel planes, and enjoy different things about each of them! the one thing i can say about safety and the comparisons, say you have to reverse your throttle, what happens when you reverse it and the electric springs to life and gets you, a fuel plane cant spring to life just because the throttle went to wide open, there is no way a fuel engine can hurt you until you crank it, not so with electric.. my .02!

That's why you should always remove the prop or have the plane secured in a glow engine starting stand before making any adjustments like that. This often happens when trying to match throw direction and trim of a buddy box to the transmitter.
Complacency is the big danger. Always treat an armed electric plane as if the engine was running.
Old 01-11-2008, 07:45 AM
  #14  
acarter
 
acarter's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: schuylkill haven, PA
Posts: 927
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

ORIGINAL: B.L.E.

I have been keeping a logbook on my .60 size electric plane. I was interested in seeing just how long the batteries last and also it helps me rotate the three packs to equalize the wear. So far I have 208 logged flights on the plane plus a few extra flights done before I started the log. So far, each battery pack has about 70 logged flights and they still perform almost like new. My transmitter countdown timer is set for 10 minutes but I have flown a few minutes longer on occasion when the runway was not clear to land. Not flying to the esc low voltage cutoff point and checking current with an ampmeter after putting a different prop on the motor to make sure I'm not over-amping makes for trouble-free electric flying.
I think a lot of the "my lipo was toast after 25 flights" horror stories come from people who don't think they need an ampmeter and fly until the low voltage cutoff forces them to land. If you need an oven mitt to handle your battery after a flight, you are probably abusing it.
People who think they don't need a amp/watt meter also fry a lot of ESCs and motors.

I wasn't trying to say that glow is cheaper, I was just making a point that an equal size electric plane isn't really a whole lot, if any cheaper in the long run. As agexpert said gassers (gasoline) are the cheapest in the long run, Although you can spend a lot more on a gasser. The fuel is about 3.50 a gallon. . I just maidened my first gasser last week and I'm loving it.

Austin
Old 01-11-2008, 08:38 PM
  #15  
overbored77
Senior Member
My Feedback: (11)
 
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Galloway, NJ
Posts: 919
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Default RE: Fuel vs. Electric: A Pro's & Con's List

Based on the dicussion we have here it sounds like we may have to add,
Learning the proper care and setup techniques to the list of electric cons.
Along with proper matching of components.

Ageexpert, I said I have 30 cycles on my packs with no MAH loss or problems.
I have a few TP pro lite packs and a few Chinese packs. I use a balncer for
all charging and I like to keep my usage to about 75% of MAH per charge.
I use 20C continuous packs but I like to keep the max amps around 18-20C
I bought a few packs so that I can give them a little time to rest between
charges. Again no failures on my packs I just have enough packs to keep the cycle
count low.

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.