A single-cylinder engine is a piston engine with one cylinder. It is often used on motorcycles, scooters, go-karts, ATVs, radio-controlled vehicles, portable tools and garden machinery (such as lawnmowers, rototillers and string trimmers).
Compared with multi-cylinder engines, single-cylinder engines are usually more simple and compact. Due to the greater potential for airflow around all sides of the cylinder, air cooling is often more effective for single cylinder engines than multi-cylinder engines. This reduces the weight and complexity of air-cooled single-cylinder engines, compared with liquid-cooled engines.
Drawbacks of single-cylinder engines include a more pulsating power delivery through each cycle and higher levels of vibration. The uneven power delivery means that often a single-cylinder engine requires a heaver flywheel than a comparable multi-cylinder engine, resulting in relatively slower changes in engine speed. To reduce the vibration level, they often make greater use of balance shafts than multi-cylinder engines, as well as more extreme methods such as a dummy connecting rod (for example the Ducati Supermono). These balancing devices can reduce the benefits of single-cylinder engines regarding lower weight and complexity.
Most single-cylinder engines used in motor vehicles are fueled by petrol (and use a four-stroke cycle), however diesel single-cylinder engines are also used in stationary applications (such as the Lombardini 3LD and 15LD).
A variation known as the split-single makes use of two pistons which share a single combustion chamber.
Early motorcycles, automobiles and other applications such as marine engines all tended to be single-cylinder. The configuration is almost exclusively used in portable tools, along with garden machinery such as lawn mowers. Single cylinder engines also remain in widespread use in motorcycles, motor scooters, go-karts, auto rickshaws, and radio-controlled models. From 1921-1960, the Lanz Bulldog tractor used a large horizontally-mounted single cylinder two-stroke engine. However they are rarely used in automobiles and tractors these days, due to developments in engine technology.
Single cylinder engines remain the most common engine layout in motor scooters and low-powered motorcycles. The Honda Super Cub (the motor vehicle with the highest overall sales since its introduction in 1958) uses a 49 cc (3.0 cu in) four-stroke single-cylinder engine. There are also several single-cylinder sportbikes (such as the KTM 690 Duke R), dual-sport motorcycles (such as the BMW G650GS) and the classic-styled Royal Enfield 500 Bullet.
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