Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Engine displacement

Engine displacement defines the volume in cubic inches, cubic centimeters, or litres that is displaced as the cylinders are moved from top dead center to bottom dead center.

It is calculated with the following formula:

All other factors being equal, a larger displacement engine is more powerful than a smaller one. It is the easiest method of adding power and has fewer complications than other methods; however, engine weight and bulk increase proportionally. The ease of adding power this way led to the sayings There's no substitute for cubic inches, or alternatively, There's no replacement for displacement, commonly quoted by devotees of large-engined cars.

The added mass and size reduce a vehicle's maneuverability, however, and in applications where that is important, alternative methods for increasing power are commonly employed. Additionally, because the efficiency of the engine is not improved, fuel consumption rises dramatically.

In cars, engines over 8 litres displacement are extremely rare in the last half-century, and most modern cars utilise engines much smaller than that; 2 litres for smaller cars, 3 to 5 litres for larger and/or faster.

Much larger engines tend to be diesel engines, fitted to trucks, ships railroad locomotives and used to drive stationary generators. The displacement of each cylinder in such an engine may be much larger than that of a whole car engine.

In many nations, levels of taxation on automobiles have been based on engine displacement, rather than on power output, since displacement is easier to calculate. This has encouraged the development of other methods to increase engine power.

External links