Who doesn’t like big? Big cars, big houses, big V-twin motorcycles, even big meals. The old saying of bigger is better holds true for many things not only in our country, but around the world, too. Big is synonymous with the best, and if something is bigger than something else, then it surely has to be better doesn’t it? The growing trend in our country these days seems to be that big isn’t so good after all. Smaller cars, smaller engines, increased fuel economy are the trends as of lately. But there are still some enormous items in this world that deserve a closer look. One of these oddities is the Wartsila-Sulzer RTA96-C turbocharged diesel engine. Used in the maritime field powering oil tankers and such, this is one big engine.
What exactly does the world’s largest internal combustion engine have to do with an automotive site? The basic principal of this engine is the same as any other engine, just on a much larger scale. Crankshaft, pistons, cylinder head, all the pieces are the same just much larger than normal. About the only difference between this mammoth engine and your everyday power plant in your car is the power strokes involved. For the most part, modern engines are of the four cycle variety. The worlds largest engine is a two cycle. This in a nutshell means that every other stroke of the piston down the cylinder is a power producing stroke.
Speaking of stroke, the displacement of an engine is determined by the bore, or how large the cylinder diameter is and the stroke, how far the piston travels in an up and down motion. Typically, this is done in inches or millimeters. On this engine, it is measured in feet. The bore measures in at a whopping three feet two inches and the stroke at eight feet two inches. Go ahead, break out your tape measure and lay it out. Combine the huge measurements and multiply by six, eight, ten, twelve, and fourteen cylinders. All engines are laid out in the inline or straight pattern and the twelve cylinder measures 89 feet long and 12 feet wide. Some houses are not even that large.
Having all of this mass spinning all at once is a scary thought. Needless to say the engine “red line” is a low 100 revs per minute or R.P.M.’s. Although this is considered slow in the engine field, at this speed it is producing right around 90,000 horsepower. Even at cruising speed, 90 R.P.M.’s, horsepower is rated at a shade over 53,000 horsepower. More than enough to power just about anything in the world yet produced. Fuel economy figures? Forget ‘em. The fourteen cylinder version of this engine displaces a staggering 1.56 million cubic inches. At cruise, it consumes over 1,600 gallons of crude oil every hour. Needless to say, even a 454 Chevy in a motor home seems like a fleet of Toyota Prius’s. But, who will buy this for fuel economy anyway? This is made to power large ocean going vessels.
So if in the need for something large to power your weekend lake cruiser, give this engineering marvel a look. Just be sure to upgrade to a luxury liner.