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LiPo Batteries And Electric RC Racing

Lithium Polymer batteries (shortened to LiPo batteries) are a type of rechargeable battery that have gained a lot of traction in recent years, especially with RC plane and helicopter enthusiasts. One of the reasons for their popularity is that they are often cheaper and are less of a hassle than dealing with fuel-powered engines. Simply recharge and plug the battery into your radio controlled vehicle, and you're ready to race! We have full coverage of NiMH, NiCd, and LiFe batteries in this article.

Advantages to LiPo batteries over Conventional Rechargeables

For many years, traditional rechargeable battery types were used by rc enthusiasts. These types of batteries included NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) and NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride). However, NiCad and NiMH were often bulkier and heavier than LiPo. Other advantages to LiPo batteries are that they can be molded into almost any shape the manufacturer desires. This has many advantages especially when a manufacturer is trying to make the lightest RC vehicle possible and for the small and odd-shaped compartments that can be found on many RC planes and helicopters.

Another advantage is that they are lighter in weight. This is important for those of you who enjoy professional RC racing and flying. Weight is indeed a large part of a racer's concern.

LiPo batteries also can store a lot of power, so that you can race for longer periods between charges. They also feature high discharge capability so powering the most demanding types of electric motors is now possible.

Popular LiPo Battery

What about downsides to LiPo batteries?

As with any technology, especially battery technology, there are often downsides associated with them. One downside to using LiPo batteries is that their overall lifespan is not as long as their NiCad or NiMH counterparts. Though, the lifecycle gap is getting closer as time goes on.

Another downside is that they can catch fire and sometimes even explode if handled incorrectly. Properly following the manufacturer's safety instructions should keep you out of harm's way, however.

How should LiPo batteries be charged?

Because of their volatility and because of the ability to permanently damage the cells if not charged correctly be sure to follow these tips:

1. Use only the recommended LiPo charger for your battery packs.

2. Make sure that you set the correct cell count on your charger.

3. Check the voltage of each LiPo cell individually. This is really important, as having an imbalanced cell voltage across the battery pack can short out or even explode the pack!

4. Never charge your LiPo batteries if you cannot tend to them. It is important to keep an eye on charging to ensure that they are charging correctly and that everything is running safely and properly.

5. As with any battery type, it is important to not puncture or rupture the cells. If you think that your battery may have sustained damage while racing, thoroughly check it over or better yet, get a new battery.

6. Be mindful of operating temperatures. LiPo batteries are sensitive to extreme cold and heat. If you are planning to fly your RC plane or heli in cold weather, try to keep the extra battery packs warm by storing them inside a vehicle. Likewise, take care to not run your battery at full power for excessive periods of time, as high heat can damage the cells.

What Lithium Polymer battery type should I buy?

It is important to remember that LiPo batteries were not expressly made for RC hobbyists. They were originally manufactured for cell phones, PDAs, and other devices like hearing aids. That being said, here are a few tips on how to choose the best type of battery:

1. Compare the graphs of each battery manufacturer that you are considering. Look for things like performance of the cell at different amperages and for life cycle averages.

2. RC plane and helicopter electronics are sensitive. Using a battery that is under-powered for your application can damage your speed control, among other things.

3. As with any purchase, try to get a battery that has a higher rating than you think you'll need. Better to buy slightly better quality than to regret it later on.

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