Although your remote-controlled preference may frequently range from cars and trucks, all the way up to UAVs and drones, your first prior is always going to be your batteries. In fact, even if you prefer the realism of nitro and gas-powered RC vehicles and planes to any of their battery-powered counterparts, your transmitter and receiver are still depending on batteries for control.
The lengths of your RC sessions, the range your vehicles can travel, the weight they can carry, and even the speeds they can reach are all determined by the battery. That’s why it’s easy to see just how much the changes in batteries and battery technologies, are having on all forms of RC hobbies. And not surprisingly, battery chargers are also changing.
Modern RC chargers have very little in common with the brutish amp-pushers that populated the RC landscape all only a few years ago. Today’s chargers are intelligent, and they’re designed to meet the needs of enthusiasts just as much as they are today’s wide variety of batteries. It means that if you’re serious about maximizing your RC pleasure, you’re also going to have to think about what your charger’s doing for you.
Changing the Game With Smart Chargers
If you’re thinking about buying a new 6500mAh capacity battery to put in more hours of RC drive time on the weekends but don’t have a charger that can keep it filled, then you’re likely to be disappointed. That’s why if you’re serious about your RCing, you should consider stepping up to a full-featured smart RC battery charger that’ll work with any type of battery you’re using, and is consistent with your type of usage.
A smart charger is nothing like the standard hobby charger that comes with your vehicle. They’re battery optimization devices that are capable of checking, charging, balancing, and even discharging multiple batteries and battery types, simultaneously. With a smart charger, you have a level of battery management that’s focused on preserving your batteries’ charging cycles – not just getting them charged quickly – and you’re going to be amazed at how much more battery life “smart-charging” will give you.
What Makes a Charger “smart?”
Make no mistake: as easy as it is to follow the practice of “bigger is better” in RCing, that’s not the case with RC batteries or RC battery chargers. Rechargeable batteries normally don’t like being recharged at the rate ordinary delta-peak chargers function – while on the other hand, you don’t want to wait 24 hours for a trickle charger to fill a battery that’ll only have 15 – 20 minutes of runtime.
Smart RC chargers, however, rely on microprocessor technology to provide optimal charging and discharging rates based on both battery specifications and how you intend to use them. They can also be powered from either 100-240v AC or 11-18v DC, so you always have a power source available. And for enthusiasts who need to charge multiple battery types, or are buying more batteries to increase their operating time, smart chargers offer all advantages of being:
With their independent circuitry and multi-channel functionality, smart chargers can charge all types of batteries, regardless of their capacities or voltage. You simply select your battery type and charging specification, and the charger does the rest. With advanced function modes like cell balancing and storage charging, a smart charger can coax every available amp of efficiency out of your batteries, and help them to live longer in the process.
RC batteries can be as sensitive as they are expensive, and they won’t last long or risk igniting or exploding if overcharged, charged too quickly, or their cells aren’t charged evenly. Smart chargers are designed to ensure that you’re safely getting the maximum number of cycles out of your batteries, and that’s going to save you considerable sums of money in battery replacements in the process.
Smart chargers feature LCDs that give you precise data on the state and condition of every battery being charged. There’s no need to approximate how far a battery is into its charging cycle or how capable the battery still is of taking a charge. Smart chargers even include Bluetooth connectivity that allows enthusiasts to monitor, log charging data, and even control their chargers remotely through a portable device or PC.
Smart remote control battery chargers are the way to go for serious RCing, but it’s just as important to understand which type of RC battery technology you have. Your battery type is going to have an impact on both session times and the maximum you can expect from a charger, so getting to know your battery is imperative.
Know Your RC Batteries
There are 3 main types of RC batteries, and being able to distinguish between them – along with knowing which one(s) best suits your type of RCing – is a major step toward knowing which features you can benefit most from in a charger.
These are old-school, heavyweight batteries that are known for experiencing the “memory effect” during charging. It’s almost mandatory for them to run down completely to be effectively recharged, they have short runtimes, and charging cycles between only 100 and 300 cycles. The charging and discharging functionality of a smart RC charger is ideal for NiCD.
Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)
These batteries are similar in weight to NiCDs and have similar runtimes to them as well, but their capacities can but up to 3 times higher. These are the longest-lasting batteries though, with charge cycles between 700 and 1000 cycles. For all their benefits though, NiMHs are extremely sensitive to overcharging, and a smart remote control charger will ensure that it stays within its charging parameters.
Lithium Polymer (LiPo)
These are currently the lightest, and most consistent RC batteries available. Enthusiasts prefer them because of their wide assortment of shapes, huge power capacities (up to 15000mAh for drone batteries) and runtimes twice as long as NiCDs and NiMHs. Their downsides, however, are that they only have about 300 charge cycles and also don’t tolerate overcharging or over-discharging. Cell balancing is crucial for maintaining the life and health of these expensive batteries, and that’s one of the features that smart chargers are known for, and that if you want to get the absolute best results from a charger, you’re going to want to use the best batteries.
The Final Word
At the end of the day, charging your RC batteries doesn’t have to be a complicated process. What you want, however, is a charger that’s just as capable of quickly charging a hefty 5000mAh NiMH battery for slow all-day use, as it is for safely charging a lightweight 1500mAh LiPo cell that may only see a few minutes of use in a 100mph+ road car. A smart RC battery charger can work effectively with any type of battery that you have. They’re the most efficient chargers available, and what investing one is going to save you in battery expenses is going to amaze you.