What is the Difference Between Electrical vs Nitro Motors

There has long been a debate between electrical vs nitro motors. Some would even classify it as a battle. But to understand the battle, you have to understand first why that the differences are between electrical vs nitro, and how each one operates and works. Both will perform differently, offer different aspects of power and control, and will also change extra maintenance or accessories that are required as part of ownership.

Knowing the difference between the two motors is imperative because remote controlled vehicles come in both electrical and nitro motors. This article will help list why knowing the difference is important, and what parts are altered for each type of vehicle because of the motor you select.

The Similarities Between Electrical vs Nitro

There is one obvious similarity between electrical vs nitro motors. The obvious similarity being that they both get the job done in terms of providing power and propulsion to an RC vehicle. Both doing a decent job of getting from one place to the other. The similarities, however, stop there, as they begin to differentiate themselves from one another quite rapidly in terms of power, usage, maintenance, previous skills required, sound, etc.

How an Electrical Motor Works

The key driver between all electrical motors is whether they are brushed or brushless, they both us magnetism. What this means, is that magnets tend to attract opposites, and when doing so will create weight and rotation that then will come back around and begin the process. This creates a magnetic motion which then continues forever until stopped.

electrical motor

Essentially electrical motors work through the use of electricity, as stated by their name, and battery packs as their fuel. Electrical Engins then break down into two separate categories of brushed vs brushless. Each one has its own unique engineering capabilities and features, but the idea is still the same. Electricity is still generated through the use of magnetism and provides the power for RCs to use when moving.

Because electrical motors tend to also have less equipment and come in a more compact version than nitro motors, they can be mounted easier. This means that RC engineers typically favor using a plastic chassis instead of a metal chassis. This means that electrical motor RCs typically have much less weight.

Electrical motors tend to go hand in hand with plastic drivetrains. Drivetrains are what the motors for both electrical and nitro engines give the power to create motion. What this means, is that most RC cars will generally have a mostly-plastic set of gears for electrical motors, but can be upgraded to some more metal pieces to have a boost in strength and duration.

The next point between how an electrical motor differentiates itself from nitro motors is that they both have different effects on the center of gravity for an RC vehicle. The center of gravity is what stabilizes a remote controlled vehicle at high speeds and how it negotiates turns. Electrical motors tend to have a more stable center of gravity since they do not have to worry about fuel bouncing around the fuel tank, and have more stable mounts from a more compact engine.

Electrical motors tend to weigh a lot less because they have fewer components that are required to work. Motor efficiency comes into play as the next category, which is that electric motors tend to have slightly fewer run times, and extra battery packs cost more than fuel for nitro motors. In terms of run-time efficiency and economic comparisons, the nitro motor wins.

Electrical RC car

The sound is also a large factor between the two, as electrical motors are extremely quiet when compared to nitro motors.

The last difference between the two motors is what kind of maintenance is required for both engines. Electrical engines have a lot less maintenance that is required. For instance with electrical motors, all you have to do is charge the battery pack, start the engine with a switch, replace worn brushes or motors completely after thousands of uses, adjust the throttle on the speed controller, and washing every now and then.

How a Nitro Motor Works

Nitro motors use a remote controlled (RC) equivalent of gasoline that you would normally use in your own vehicle in the real world. Some forms of Nitro motors use specific nitro fuel, while others use various types of gasoline. Nitro engines rely on fuel instead of batteries. What this means, is that these are real miniaturized engines that have carburetors, clutches, pistons, air filters, plugs, crankshafts and a fuel system that feeds a fuel tank and an exhaust.

nitro motor

In addition to all of those components, there is also a heat sink that prevents the engine from overheating and helps to dissipate temperatures evenly. Because nitro motors are so complex, they require additional mounting requirements to the frame of the RC vehicle. This means that engineers have to use a metal chassis, usually a lightweight aluminum.

Nitro motors generate a lot of heat, which would melt a plastic chassis that is commonly used for electric motors, so an aluminum metal chassis is required to ensure proper mounting and heat dispersion. When compared to electrical motors, nitro motors have to have an all metal drivetrain. Drivetrains, as mentioned earlier, are what gives an RC vehicle motion when power is applied. Metal gears within the drivetrain are required to control the high torque that is usually associated with nitro motors.

Metal drivetrains are required because nitro motors will typically damage or put too much stress on plastic parts that might often be found in electrical motor RCs. If you are interested in a nitro motor RC and the manufacturer mentions that there are some plastic parts, you need to take this into consideration because it is only a matter of when you will have to replace parts due to them being damaged, not if.

The next consideration between the two different types of motors is their center of gravity. As mentioned earlier with the electrical motor, nitro motors tend to have a less stable center of gravity, due to the fact that there are more working parts and fuel that bounces around. Nitro motors also tend to weigh more when compared to electrical motors, because they are mainly constructed with metal parts, in comparison to plastic parts for electrical motors.

In terms of run-time efficiency and economic comparisons, nitro motors tend to have longer run times and offer greater savings. Even though you have to purchase nitro fuel or gasoline depending on the engine you are running, the fuel by the gallon is cheaper than battery packs purchased for an electrical motor.

Because nitro motors are miniaturized engines, they do produce a great deal of sound through their exhaust as they burn fuel. Some RC hobbyists love to hear the roar of the engine as it is zipping around, but others might not like this trait.

Nitro RC car

The last comparison between the two motors is how much maintenance is required for each. Nitro motors tend to involve a lot more maintenance and previous engine knowledge than electrical motors. For instance, nitro engines have to go through break-in periods, additional accessories to start, check the fuel system periodically, change braking power manually, draining the fuel tank, cleaning the air filter, adding additional gasoline and oil, greasing mechanisms, and additional cleaning steps.

Advantages vs Disadvantages For Electrical vs Nitro Motors

So now that we have broken down exactly how they are different from one another, and what those differences mean to operate a remote controlled vehicle, let’s showcase a chart of the advantages vs disadvantages for each motor.

Electrical Motors


  • Great For Beginners
  • Minimal Repairs Required
  • Systems Don’t Fail Often
  • Speed Increase As Cost Increase
  • Faster Than Nitro Cars
  • Lightweight
  • Weatherproof Capabilities
  • Quait


  • Batteries Require Charging
  • Extra Batteries Are Expensive
  • Problems Are More Difficult To Diagnose
  • Speed Increases As Cost Increases

Nitro Motors


  • Requires Tinkering
  • Can Tune Exactly How You Want
  • Cheaper In Terms of Eco and Run time Efficiency


  • Requires Greater Number of Tools When Operating
  • Requires Tinkering
  • Requires Tuning
  • Loud Sound
  • Heavier
  • Difficult To Master For Beginners
  • Previous Engine Knowledge Is Required To Effectively Tune and Maintain RC Vehicles
  • Not Weatherproof
  • Slower Speed

Which Is Better: Electrical vs Nitro Motors

The answer to this question is up to personal preference. Both are widely separate from the other and offer different opportunities for the usage that you will put the RC vehicle through. Some people prefer tinkering and fine-tuning their vehicles, while others would simply charge and drive.

It is important to go through and understand the RC vehicles you purchase, and how they are manufactured so you can accurately understand what it is you are getting, and how your purchase will be affected by its components. Now that you understand the differences between electrical and nitro motors, you can make a more informed decision and enjoy the more driving time that correlates with your personal preference.

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