In terms of automobile specifications, 1 horsepower is roughly equivalent to 15 to 17 cubic centimeters. While these two units are both used to describe a vehicle's engine power, cubic centimeters cannot be converted directly to horsepower. Cubic centimeters (cc) and horsepower (hp) are units that belong to different measurement scales; cubic centimeter is a unit of measure of volume, while horsepower is a unit of measurement of power.
Car engines, particularly racing cars and dragsters, are labeled according to the magnitude of engine displacement. This figure is the volume driven by all pistons of a reciprocating engine's cylinder in one motion from top dead center to bottom dead center. Engine displacement is usually declared in cubic centimeters or "cc," hence the label attached to car engines.
A car engine generates power from the combustion of fuel. While engine displacement can affect the power generation of a car engine, there are other factors that may come into play. Some of these variables include the cylinder size, number of cylinders, compression ratio, efficient air entry, improved exhaust exit, overall vehicle load and fuel injection.
Vehicles that are highly tuned have the least cc-to-hp ratio. This ratio signifies how well the fuel is swept across the cylinder pistons and converted to power. Most F1 racing cars have top-notch cc-to-hp ratios, while gigantic engines on shipping lines waste too much fuel to propel the ship forward.