How It Works: The Most Advanced Gas-Powered R/C Car

This 18-inch off-roader is made for play. But it packs an engine, starter and sensor system that are just like a real racecar’s—at a tenth of the size

Gas-powered remote-control cars provide realistic racing fun. They burn a gasoline-like fuel called nitro (made of methanol, nitromethane and lubricant) with miniature internal combustion engines. Losi’s Ten-T gets even more authentic by adding a starter that works like a diesel engine’s. Nitro cars are usually hard to start: You have to pick them up, use a hand-held motor to spin the engine, and simultaneously work the remote’s throttle. With the Ten-T you just hit “start” on the remote.

That turns on the car’s own electric motor, powered by a 7.4-volt lithium-polymer battery. The motor turns a starter shaft behind the engine, which spins the crankshaft until the engine’s suction draws in fuel. Meanwhile, the battery also lights a glow plug, similar to a spark plug, in the engine. The plug’s hot element, combined with the compression of the fuel-air mixture when the piston rises, ignites the fuel. Then the plug keeps glowing, and the fuel keeps burning, until you’re ready to call it quits.

Design Highlights on the R/C Car

Telemetry:The Ten-T is among the first R/C vehicles to come with a built-in telemetry system, similar to those in a pro racecar. Sensors on the car continuously beam data on speed, temperature and battery voltage to a display on the remote.

Fuel Tank: The 2.5-ounce tank includes a weighted pickup tube that follows the liquid as it sloshes around, ensuring that it can grab and deliver fuel even when the car drives up a steep hill. A full tank runs the engine for about 10 minutes (standard for high-power nitro cars), and it’s refueled from a squeeze bottle.

Engine: The single-cylinder, 3.4cc engine provides 1.8 horsepower, enough to send the 6.2-pound car up to 45 mph in a few seconds.

Drivetrain: In the four-wheel-drive vehicle, the engine transmits power to the wheels by engaging a clutch and kicking off a series of gearsets that lets each wheel spin at a different speed. Dual disc brakes stop both the front and rear axles.

Suspension: The front and rear suspensions are adjustable to tackle many terrains. Shifting the control arm alters ride height, camber (the vertical angle of the wheels) and toe-in (the degree they point in or out). Turning a collar on the oil-filled shocks changes springiness.

Steering Servo: This small, high-torque electric motor moves the wheels’ control arms. You can tweak its movement from the transmitter — for instance, to alter the distance it turns with each command or limit the steering angle to speed over straight tracks.

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