What Exactly Is Horsepower?

We talk about it, fight over it, and wage online wars discussing how it stacks up from supercar to supercar,...

We talk about it, fight over it, and wage online wars discussing how it stacks up from supercar to supercar, but do you actually know what horsepower is? Most think it’s what propels your car down the road, but that’s only fractionally correct.

Horsepower is far more complex than most assume, but it isn’t out of the realm of understanding for the average enthusiast. And understanding what horsepower is and does will help you with those fights, conversations, and all-out wars whenever the next Koenigsegg drops! So sit down, buckle up, and get ready as Car Bibles’ empowers you with the knowledge on everything there is to know about horsepower.

What Is Horsepower?

Horsepower is a unit of measurement showing the rate of work an engine does. The more horsepower you have, the quicker the work can be done. In this example, how quickly you can go from 0 MPH to moving.

What’s the Difference Between Horsepower and Torque?

As stated, horsepower is a unit of measurement showing the rate of work an engine does. Torque is the actual work being done that is applied to an object. In the case of a car, torque refers to the twisting motion exerted onto the vehicle’s tires through energy the internal combustion engine cycle or EV motor. The resulting work propels you forward.

How Does Horsepower Work?

In the simplest of terms, horsepower works with torque to propel your car forward. Torque twists the tires and horsepower is how quickly that twist becomes speed.

Car Bible’s Glossary for Horsepower

Welcome to Bible School!

Work

In physics and in cars, work is the energy transferred to an object through the application of force or torque.

kW

A kilowatt is a term for horsepower used in other global markets, most notably Australia. One kilowatt equals 1.341 horsepower.

RPM

RPM stands for revolutions per minute and refers to how quickly a reciprocating mass turns, i.e. your car’s crankshaft, camshaft, and wheels.

Acceleration

Acceleration is how quickly you get up to speed.

Speed

Speed is how rapidly you’re moving compared to stationary objects.

Your Questions, Our Answers on Horsepower

Car Bibles answers all your burning questions!

Q: How Is the Power of a Single Horse Calculated?

A: Here’s the equation: P=Wt=Fdt=180 lb f x 2.4 x 2 x 12 ft 1 min=32,572 ft lb f min.

Q: Why Is It Called Horsepower?

A: Essentially, a Scottish engineer wanted to sell his steam engines and needed some expert marketing. He came up with the equation above to show farmers that his steam engine could produce more horsepower than their horses!

Q: How Many Horsepower Is a Human?

A: According to people far smarter than us, a human can produce up to 1.2 horsepower in short duration, and sustain 0.1 horsepower over the course of a longer period. I guess we aren’t as good as horses.

Video Tutorial About Horsepower

Car Bibles’ editors understand that not everyone is a text-based learner. For those kinesthetic people out there, we have your back with a video showing you exactly how horsepower works. We pulled it from one of our favorite, and most trusted, sources and it’s a great additional resource.

Car Bible’s Favorite Horsepower Related Products

You can buy parts to make more horsepower at almost every auto parts and home improvement store. As well as online stores like Amazon. You have a sea of options to select from. Why not just forgo the rigamarole, listen to us, and pick from these awesome octane boosters?

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Jonathon Klein

Jonathon KleinJonathon has jumped Aston Martins for Automobile Magazine, clocked 200 mph in a McLaren 720S for Playboy, and sampled his best life behind the wheel of a Ferrari Dino Evo for Road & Track. He’s hopelessly addicted to the strongest coffee he can brew. Please send him more. Contact the author here.