LRP Pulsar Competition

World-champion charger

Words: Jason Sams

The Pulsar Competition is LRP's first charger to be released in America, but it has already proven itself as the choice of world champions; Surikarn Chaidajsuriya and Matt Francis had Pulsars on their benches when they won their respective IFMAR ISTC and 2WD Off-road World Championships. In addition to being a fully adjustable, professional-caliber charger, the Pulsar can also discharge packs and be used to power motors for break-in or to operate other DC equipment. Most interestingly, LRP claims the Pulsar actually provides a superior charge that extends run time and punch with each charge. Does it deliver? I tested all the Pulsar's functions to find out. lead.jpg - 11312 Bytes

• Trick Indiglo-style backlight.

• Fully adjustable to suit all types

• RC battery packs.

• Intuitive menu system is very easy to use

• Charge amperage can be changed while charging is in progress.

• Useful discharging and motor break-in functions.

• No AC/DC version.


PUSHBUTTON OPERATION. The Pulsar is programmed and operated by four buttons. The menu key scrolls through the unit's various functions; the “increase” and “decrease” keys adjust the value of the selected function, and a start/stop key (stay with me here) starts and stops whichever function you've selected.

BACKLIT LCD DISPLAY. Cryptic displays are a thing of the past. The Pulsar's two-line, 16-character LCD display spells out the unit's various functions and their values clearly and wins style points with its vivid Indiglo-type backlight.

LINEAR, FLEX AND TRICKLE-CHARGING MODES. The Pulsar's linear mode charges at a steady rate, at up to 8 amps; the amp rate is user-adjustable in 0.1A increments. Linear charging is preferable for NiMH cells and can also be used for Ni-Cds. LRP also recommends using the linear mode for new packs. The Pulsar's Flex-charging mode interrupts the charge current with short bursts of discharging. This process helps “wake up” batteries that have many cycles on them or packs that suffer from “memory” problems. Flex charging is useful for Ni-Cds, but it isn't recommended for NiMH packs. The Pulsar's trickle mode is activated after charging is completed and can be set to 0.1 to 0.4 amp, or deactivated (NiMH cells don't like to be trickled). While charging, the Pulsar displays charge mode in use, charge time, amp rate, input voltage, output voltage and pack capacity. When charging is complete, the final values for capacity, charge time and pack voltage are displayed.

ON-THE-FLY AMP-RATE ADJUSTMENT. Unlike other programmable chargers, the Pulsar's charge rate can be adjusted without interrupting or restarting the charge cycle. This feature is especially handy when your race is coming up and you need to speed up the charging process, or if you realize mid-charge that you've set the amp rate higher or lower than you'd like.

INTERNAL COOLING FAN. The Pulsar's internal cooling fan is programmed to come on only when necessary. The fan quietly cools the unit on hot days and when the charger is under a significant load.

10A DISCHARGER. The Pulsar discharges packs at a fixed rate of 10 amps and automatically stops discharging when the pack's voltage reaches 3.6 to 6 volts (0.6 to 1 volt per cell). The cutoff voltage is user-set in 0.1V increments. After discharging is complete, the battery's capacity, discharge time and average voltage are displayed.

MOTOR RUN-IN. The “run-in” mode can be used to power a motor during break-in, power a comm lathe, or even operate a DC soldering iron. The run-in mode's voltage can be adjusted from 2 to 7.2 volts in 0.1V increments.

MATCHING. The matching mode does not actually “match” batteries in the conventional sense of comparing the performance of individual cells; instead, the Pulsar's matching mode performs a discharge/charge/discharge cycle using the user-set charge and discharge amperages and then displays the pack's average discharge voltage and capacity in milliamps and seconds. This useful feature helps you better understand how a pack will perform throughout a race and makes it easy to monitor a pack's performance over its life.

AUTOSTART TIMER. For maximum performance, it's best to have your pack reach its peak charge just before you grid the car. The Autostart timer helps you do this by allowing you to set the Pulsar to begin charging anywhere from 1 to 99 minutes after you press the start key. Go ahead and grab lunch; the Pulsar will start charging for you even if you're late getting back to the pits.

AUTO RESTART SYSTEM. It happens all the time; while you're away from the pits, someone accidentally shuts off your power supply or disconnects the charger, or the shop's circuit breaker pops. When power is restored, there's no way to know just how long your pack was actually charging or what its charge status was. The Pulsar has you covered with its auto-restart function; if the Pulsar loses power, it will automatically begin charging without resetting any data once power has been restored (it also sounds an alarm to let you know the power is out). If the Pulsar is unpowered for more than three minutes, the charger displays the duration of the power failure and resumes charging.

ADJUSTABLE DELTA PEAK. A battery pack's voltage climbs during charging but then drops when the maximum charge is reached. Peak chargers “look for” this change in voltage (known as the “delta” value; delta is the Greek symbol for change) and stop charging when they detect a voltage drop. This method works, but a pack's voltage can fluctuate during a charge and fool the charger into “thinking” that the pack has peaked before it is fully charged. One solution to false-peaking is to have the charger look for a deeper voltage drop to signify a peak charge, but this can lead to overcharging, particularly with NiMH packs. The Pulsar's adjustable delta peak value can be set from 5 to 80 millivolts in 5mV increments, so you can tailor the charger to your packs. To help you determine which setting to use, LRP includes a “cheat sheet” with suggested settings for all types of popular Ni-Cd and NiMH cells, including receiver batteries and micro-car packs. In addition to the delta value, suggestions for charge mode, charge current and trickle current are provided.

PEAK CAPACITY SYSTEM (PCS-2). The Pulsar doesn't rely on its adjustable delta peak feature alone to prevent false peaking and overcharging. According to LRP, the Peak Capacity System uses advanced algorithms and a “digital filter” to prevent normal fluctuations in the pack's voltage from being interpreted as a peak charge.

OVERLOAD AND REVERSE-POLARITY PROTECTION. The Pulsar's software protects it against overload and improper installation of the input and output leads, and it will indicate faults on the Pulsar's LCD screen. If the screen goes dark, it means that the internal fuse has blown (and you're a hack). A spare fuse is included, but you'll have to open the Pulsar's case to install it.

Current IFMAR World Champion Surikarn Chaidajsuriya and former World Champ Atsushi Hara both use LRP Pulsar chargers, but not because LRP offered them sponsorship deals; all they got was an invitation to try the Pulsar.


Atsushi Hara
In Atsushi's case, he had no trouble going fast at the Touring Car Masters in Eppelheim, Germany, but he was falling flat on run time. This led to a visit from the LRP crew, who suggested that he try using the Pulsar instead of his usual charger. Much to his surprise, his battery performance improved. Oh, yeah; he won the race, too.

“I used the Pulsar Competition in the Masters race and found it gave excellent punch and run time. I think it has the best performance of all the chargers,” said Hara.


Surikarn Chaidajsuriya
Surikarn got his chance to try a Pulsar at the On-Road Worlds in South Africa, and after he won the event, he was a convert. In his thank-you letter to LRP (nice guy!), he said, “The Pulsar Competition provides more power, but it consumes less time than other chargers. I prefer to use the Pulsar Competition instead of my old chargers.”

Matt Francis also figures into this story, since he used a Pulsar to charge his Trinity packs on the way to his IFMAR 2WD Off-Road World Championship victory, but Matt was already a fully sponsored LRP driver at the time. Matt raves about his Pulsar, but he didn't write LRP a thank-you note. That inconsiderate bum!

The weather was scorching during testing, but the Pulsar's internal fan prevented it from overheating. I followed LRP's suggested charge settings for the various 2000, 2400 and 3000mAh packs I used, and I experienced reliable charging with no false peaking. No surprise there, since the Pulsar is a high-end charger and should, at the very least, reliably deliver a fully charged pack. I was more interested in LRP's claims that the Pulsar would increase a pack's punch and run time compared with the same pack's performance when peaked by other brands of chargers. To test this claim, I charged and dumped a selection of test packs using the Pulsar and my usual charger, both set to charge at 6 amps. I drove the packs back to back in my Team Losi Triple-XS, and the Pulsar-charged packs did feel a little punchier. Run time also increased slightly for some packs to the tune of about 10 seconds. That doesn't sound like much, but that's an extra lap on some tracks. Though the Pulsar did seem to give a little boost to all the packs I charged, not all saw extended run times; your results will vary with the types of packs you use and their condition.

When I raced with the Pulsar, I used its motor run-in feature to power a comm lathe and break in motors after reassembly. I set the voltage to 4.8 volts to simulate the 4-cell pack I usually use, and the Pulsar did its thing. In addition to eliminating the need to carry a 4-cell pack in my pit box, using the run-in mode makes it easy to switch the motor or lathe on and off by hitting the start/stop key. One thing to keep in mind: if the motor draws more amperage than your power supply is rated to supply, the run-in mode will not work. If this happens to you, try using a gel-cell battery or a 12-cell pack to power the Pulsar (or pony up for a stronger power supply).

I also tested the discharger, which performs well and barely heats the Pulsar, thanks to the internal cooling fan. I also used the discharger as part of the Pulsar's matching function, and it performed as promised. If you use a notebook or your computer to store the data generated by the matching function, you'll be able to track your packs' performance all season.

Most chargers simply return to their main menu screen or indicate a completed charge if the charger loses power; the Pulsar is smarter than that. It lets you know if it lost power because of a disconnection or an outage.

The Pulsar keeps you informed during the charge cycle. This Reedy pack has been charging at 6 amps for 55 seconds, and 92mAh have gone into the pack so far. The 8.88V reading is the voltage at the alligator clips.

LRP definitely has an excellent product in the Pulsar Competition Charger. Scrolling through the menu is effortless, and changing the settings is simple. The blue case and Indiglo-type blue backlit screen are totally cool; the LRP guys obviously know a thing or two about the “bling-bling” factor. The Pulsar is relatively small and can be stored in a convenient spot, such as the top shelf of a large toolbox, but you'll need to bring along a power supply, since the Pulsar is DC only. All in all, it's a great value for anyone in the market for a workhorse charger.

LRP Electronic Distributed by Team Associated (714) 850-9342;

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