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16 Different Car Engine Types | Explained

The evolution of car engines runs parallel with the development of car models and designs. Simply put, it has a quite bit of history too. Modern car engines are complicated and specially designed to meet our various needs. For some of us superior power is must have for an engine while for others fuel efficiency is mandatory. To satisfy this need of their customers, car manufacturers, engineers and designers have devised many different car engine types over the period of several years. Today, we are going to explain each car engine type out there so that you know what’s best for you.

Internal Combustion engine

An internal combustion engine or ICE is a type of heat engine where combustion of fuel takes place inside the chamber. When the fuel burns inside the engine, it causes the temperature to rise, and the pressure to increase. This high pressure produced by combustion is now applied directly to power pistons, rotor or a nozzle.

This is the force which moves your car over a distance, transforming chemical energy into useful mechanical energy. I.C.E is generally used in automobile industries to power cars. Now, an internal combustion engine can be categorized on many bases. i.e. based on type of ignition, number of strokes, based on design and so on.

A heat engine can also be distinguished as an External Combustion Engine, where combustion of fuel takes place in an external source. Here, we are not going to discuss much about External Combustion Engine since it is not used in cars. So lets begin.

Based on number of strokes


16. Two stroke engine

Trabant 2 stroke engineTrabant using two-stroke engine

In a two stroke engine a piston completes a power cycle with two strokes – one up and down inside the cylinder to complete one crankshaft revolution during a single time of fuel burn. In this type of engine, the end of the combustion stroke and the beginning of the compression stroke happen simultaneously, which means the intake and exhaust functions occur at the same time. Two stroke engine has high torque compare to four stroke engine.

15. Four stroke engine

4 stroke engineWikimedia Commons

A four-stroke engine is an internal combustion engine variant in which the piston completes four strokes while turning a crankshaft. The mechanism here is different from that of 2 stroke engine. Here piston moves two times up and down inside the cylinder and complete two crankshaft revolutions. This type of engines has high average compare to two stroke engine. Four stroke engine is more commonly used in cars and trucks than 2 stroke engine.

14. Six stroke engine

Although, the six stroke internal combustion engine is in its development phase, it’s already creating a lot of buzz in the motor industry. The six stroke engine has decided advantages over the traditional motors and may result in increased fuel-efficiency, reduced mechanical complexity and reduced emissions. If you want to read more about futuristic six stroke engine, try this article.

Based to the design


13. Reciprocating Engine

The main component of a reciprocating engine is a piston which is used to convert pressure into rotating motion. There may be one or more pistons in an engine. Each piston is placed inside a cylinder, into which a pressurized gas is injected, and heated inside the cylinder by ignition of a fuel air mixture. So the piston starts reciprocating motion (to and fro motion). This reciprocating motion is converted into rotary motion by use of a crank shaft.

12. Wankel Engine

Wankel CycleWankel Engine cycle

The Wankel engine is also known as rotor engine because it uses an eccentric rotary system in the place of piston to convert pressure into rotating motion. It is simpler, smoother and much more compact compared to its more popular competitor reciprocating or piston engine. The major reason behind its superiority is that Wankel engines produce more power pulses per revolution compared to two stroke and four stroke engines.

Despite of the fact that it is mechanically better than pistons, Wankel engines are not so commonly used in the auto industry. Practically, they are not at all efficient than piston engines. They are plagued with slow combustion, bad fuel economy, poor emissions problems. Wankel engines are generally used in racing cars. The most popular example is Mazda’s RX-8.

Based on method of ignition


11. Compression ignition engine

In compression ignition engine or CI, the combustion of fuel in the chamber is caused by the high temperatures achieved by gas or air due to adiabatic compression. Diesel engines are a perfect example of a compression ignition engine since it works only by compressing the air.

There are numerous advantages of having a diesel engine over other internal combustion engines like higher thermodynamic efficiency and reduced parasitic load on the engine.

10. Spark-ignition engine

All petrol engines are based on spark ignition, where the combustion process of the air-fuel mixture is ignited by a spark from a spark plug. Even though, spark-ignition engines are commonly referred to as “petrol engines” in major parts of the world, spark-ignition engines can also run on Autogas (LPG), methanol, bioethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen, and even on nitromethane.


HCCI stands for Homogeneous charge compression engine. It is a revolutionary step towards minimizing emissions and maximizing fuel efficiency. The HCCI technology combines characteristics of conventional gasoline engines and diesel engines to produce a hybrid solution.

Although, its lesser core temperature (while burning fuel) causes negligible amount of Nitrogen oxide emissions, it also leads to incomplete burning of fuel, which result in relatively high carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions. As of 2017, no HCCI engines are produced commercially. However, there are several functioning HCCI prototypes.

Based on number of cylinder


8. Single cylinder engine

This type of engines have only one cylinder connected to the crank shaft. Single-cylinder engines are compact, lightweight and have better weight to power ratio. It’s most commonly used on motorcycles, motor scooters, dirt bikes and go-karts. Single cylinder engines are not used in modern day cars.

7. Multiple cylinder engine

Multiple cylinder engine is just the opposite of single cylinder variant – the engine has multiple cylinders instead of one. It can be either a 2-stroke or 4-stroke engine, either Diesel or spark-ignition. Multi-cylinder engines offer a number of advantages over single-cylinder engines. It is capable of achieving higher RPM or revolutions per minute and superior ability to neutralize imbalances.

According to arrangement of cylinder


6. In-line engine

What does it mean whenever someone says its an in-line engine? Well, it is just an alignment or the shape of cylinders. In In-line engines, cylinders are arranged in a straight line one behind the other along the length of the crankshaft. Among its three different variants, inline-four is the most popular in the industry as it is compact, fuel efficient and gives a higher power to weight ratio than flat 6 or 8 engines.

5. V engine

The cylinders and pistons in a V – type engine are aligned in two separate planes, in a way that they appear to be in a “V” shape when viewed from the top. The unique shape of the V engine substantially reduces the overall engine weight and length compared to the inline engines.

4. W Engine

The W engine first entered into the scene in 1909, when the Anzani three-bank engine powered the Blériot XI aircraft to cross the English channel. But the first commercial use of the W type engine in automotive industry was achieved by Volkswagen. A W or double V shaped engine has three different configurations which are as follows:

  • The first configuration consists of three banks of cylinders sharing a common crankshaft. It is also known as broad arrow configuration due to its resemblance to the British broad arrow property mark.
  • The second one is four banks of cylinders sharing a common crankshaft. This is also known as a ‘double-V’ engine.
  • The and last configuration is an engine with two banks of cylinders with two crankshafts.

The W shaped engines are mostly used in Volkswagen cars, most notably in Bugatti Veyron.

3. OPOC engine

An OPOC engine consists of two cylinders with piston at both ends. There is no cylinder head present so there are no valves. Compared to conventional engines, the opposed cylinder opposed piston engine has very low bearing loads means, there will be less friction also its extremely small in size. OPOC engines have a high power to weight ratio.

Read: Cars That Brought the Revolution in Automobile Industry


According to air intake process


2. Naturally aspirated

Naturally aspirated engine is a type of I.C engine in which air intake depends solely on atmospheric pressure and does not rely on forced induction through a turbocharger or a supercharger. Many sports cars specifically use naturally aspirated engines to avoid turbo lag. Most automobile petrol engines, as well as many small engines used for non-automotive purposes, are naturally aspirated.

1. Supercharged and Turbocharged Engine

Read: The Evolution of Cars: 1769 to Present

Supercharged and Turbocharged engines have some fundamental differences. A supercharger uses crankshaft to drive energy and produce power rather than exhaust stream like in turbochargers. Superchargers are connected directly to the engine via belt. Moreover,turbochargers are more eco-friendly than supercharged engines.