What Are CC’s and Why They Matter

What Are CC’s and Why Are They Important When You Evaluate Engines?

Looking at the technical specifications for a new go-kart, scooter, or ATV can be daunting for even the most mechanically savvy person. The engine and transmission specifications, chassis features, suspension details, and safety considerations may contain so much industry jargon that they seem impossible to understand. If you are at a loss as to how to make an informed decision about which type of engine to purchase, understanding cc’s will give you a rough estimate of the engine’s power and allow you to choose the best engine for your needs.

The abbreviation “cc” stands for “cubic centimeters.” In terms of engines, this general unit of measurement describes the total displacement of the engine. Each engine contains one or more pistons, which move up and down within a cylinder. As a piston moves from top to bottom in the cylinder, it sucks a certain amount of air into the chamber. The total amount of air swept into the cylinder by the movement of the pistons is the engine displacement, which is measured in cc’s. The air mixes with a tiny amount of gasoline allowed into the cylinder. The piston then moves upward, compressing the air and gasoline mixture. When the spark plug ignites the gasoline, the force of the reaction generates power and pushes the piston downward, releasing exhausting and beginning the cycle again.

The engine displacement of a go-kart or scooter depends on several factors. First, a piston with a larger diameter will allow more air to enter the cylinder, increasing the engine’s cc’s. The other factor that affects engine displacement is the piston stroke length. If a piston moves only a few centimeters up and down with each stroke, it will not let much air into the cylinder. A greater piston stroke length allows more air to enter the cylinder, increasing displacement. An engine with multiple cylinders has an even larger displacement, because more pistons move and sweep air inward with each cycle.

How, then, does the engine displacement affect performance? In general, an engine’s cc’s give you an estimate of how much power the engine can produce. An engine is powered by the reaction between ignited gasoline and oxygen. The more oxygen allowed into an engine, the greater the force of the reaction and the more power generated by the engine with each piston stroke. Thus, a 300cc go-kart or scooter should generate roughly six times more power than one with a 50cc engine. The exact relationship between engine cc’s and horsepower depends on other factors that affect engine efficiency, but an engine’s displacement gives you a general idea of how much power it will produce.

When choosing a go-kart, scooter, or ATV, look carefully at the engine specifications to determine how many cc’s it has. If purchasing a go-kart with a very powerful engine is important to you, look for one with a relatively large engine displacement. If you are more concerned about aesthetics, safety features, or fuel economy, the engine displacement may not be an important part of your choice. In that case, choosing a scooter with fewer engine cc’s but other great features may make the most sense for you. Remember that the exact amount of horsepower generated by an engine depends on more than engine displacement. A well-made, efficient engine with lower cc’s may have better performance than an older engine model with higher cc’s. Look at approximate horsepower specifications to further inform your decision about which go-kart, scooter, or ATV engine is best for you.