You’ve probably heard the term ‘horsepower’ flying around in the automotive industry. For most people, all they know is that it’s a good thing, but that’s not all there is.
We’ll help you understand what it is, how it relates to your car’s power output, and whether it really matters. Watch out, we’d also compare it to another frequently used phenomenon.
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Here’s the short answer to whether all cars have horsepower:
All cars moving on the road today would have a significant amount of horsepower. The term is a measure of a car engine’s power output. However, some have a lot more than others and that’s where the difference becomes clear. For any car to move, it needs horsepower.
What Exactly Is Horsepower in Cars?
Horsepower is simply a unit of power, just like watts. We need one horsepower to move 550 pounds by a distance of 1 foot in a second. This is equivalent to moving 33,000 pounds by one foot (or 330 pounds by a hundred feet) in a minute.
However, cars usually weigh thousands of pounds and need to move thousands of meters. So you’d need a lot more than 1 HP for commuting. If you’ve had enough of the math, we’ve explained in simpler terms, onward.
Horsepower is the power produced by a car’s engine. This output helps people understand how powerful their engines are.
If your car has impressive horsepower, it means your engine can easily drag your car around town. This is especially true with sports cars because their engines are mighty relative to their weights. Therefore, they’re exceptionally fast.
So we relate horsepower to acceleration, but is not the only factor that affects it. It is related to how much weight the engine can move. If an SUV and a sports car have equal horsepower, the SUV would be slower because it’s heavier.
So horsepower is important, but it isn’t independent of weight.
Does Every Car Have Horsepower?
If a car has a functional engine, it has horsepower. The horsepower of any car ensures it can move.
Asking whether a car has horsepower is like asking whether a car has “miles per hour”. We all know speed is measured in miles per hour. Some cars have pretty high top speeds while others can just get you from point A to B safely.
Still, technically, all cars have speed, whether they have low or high top speeds. It’s the same for power. So instead of saying “all cars have horsepower”, it’s more appropriate to say “all cars have power”.
Recall we said 1 horsepower is the power required to move 550 pounds by 1 foot in a second. So since all cars weigh thousands of pounds and can still move, their capacities amount to several horsepower.
In fact, the average car has an engine capacity of about 120 HP. It may sound like a lot, but you should know that SUVs often have up to 300 HP.
However, this does not mean the SUV would go faster than the compact car with only 120 HP.
Recall the weight factor. That’s why the horsepower-to-weight ratio is so important. So, also check out compact SUVs with the most horsepower.
Do All Cars Have Brake Horsepower?
There are different types of horsepower. Better put, we measure horsepower at different points.
So, brake horsepower is just the figure you’d get when you measure the power at the drive shaft. The brake horsepower is often used interchangeably with horsepower. Still, some people view them as individual concepts.
Having explained what it is, we can say all cars have brake horsepower. That’s because every car engine produces raw and undiluted power before losses occur.
Still a bit confused about brake horsepower? Stay with us, we’ve explained even better below.
Related: Do All Cars Require Seat Belts?
What Is the Difference Between Wheel Horsepower and Brake Horsepower?
We do not use brake horsepower while driving; it is only a measure of what the engine produces. Wheel horsepower, on the other hand, is a measure of the actual power available on the wheels.
A major difference is in the numbers. Brake horsepower is always higher than wheel horsepower and there’s a perfect explanation for it.
Recall that BHP is a measure of raw power from the engine before any losses occur. These losses show up because of friction that occurs majorly in the drivetrain. This means your transmission eats up a lot of that power.
Car manufacturers prefer using brake horsepower when listing their vehicle specifications. So whatever horsepower they specify is greater than what you get in reality.
Wheel horsepower is the actual horsepower available for use. It is a measure of the power at the wheels after all major losses have occurred. You may also refer to it as the actual or real horsepower.
Another way to look at it is that brake horsepower is theoretical while wheel horsepower is practical. However, not everyone would agree with this concept since the brake horsepower actually exists. We can’t use the full power because technology hasn’t taken us that far.
So if your vehicle comes with 200 HP, that’s the brake horsepower and the ultimate power available is significantly lower.
What Is Horsepower a Measure Of?
From all that we’ve explained, and as the name implies, it’s clear that horsepower is a measure of power. It shows how fast work can be done. So we always relate horsepower to speed.
Hence, we’re not only concerned about the capacity of the engine and whether it can get the job done. We’re also interested in how fast it can get it done.
To help you understand better, consider this example. Even if manufacturers produce all cars with only 40 HP, they’d still be able to move from one point to another.
However, the heavier cars would arrive much more slowly and a car with monstrous horsepower would reach much faster.
The time and weight factors make all the difference.
How Does Horsepower Correlate to Torque?
These terms are often misunderstood, even by car enthusiasts. We’d save you the stress of a mathematical equation and make it simple.
The torque of an engine is the twisting force generated by its crankshaft. From this, we can say that torque is the work done by the engine to produce the needed power.
So torque is the engine’s workability, while horsepower is a measurement of how quickly the work can be done.
More simply, torque equals effort while horsepower equals results.
The argument on which is more important is unnecessary, since they are completely different. However, it’s noteworthy that torque is the foundation for engine output.
Hence, power is only possible because of torque.
How Do I Know How Many Horsepower My Car Has?
Many people are quick to mention using a dynamometer to measure your car’s horsepower. Although that works, why go through all that trouble?
Doing a quick Google search is the quickest way to go about it, especially if your car isn’t aged. You can do it from anywhere with a cell phone.
Just type in your car’s model and year and you can add the trim level for trim-specific data. From there, you shouldn’t have much trouble navigating your way around. If you’re old school, you can check your car’s user manual because it contains relevant details about your vehicle, including horsepower.
Still, although the internet and your user manual are significant sources of information, know that no two engines are perfectly alike. Even identical models will produce slightly different outputs because of human imperfection. This is regardless of what the manufacturer says the horsepower is.
Besides, automakers mostly advertise brake horsepower, not wheel horsepower, so calculating it would provide the most accurate results. This is where a dynamometer would come in handy. It’ll not only give a lesser than advertised value, it’ll give a vehicle specific value of wheel horsepower.
A dynamometer will also be a more accurate method because of car aging. As cars get older, they all wear out. In summary, their engines produce less power, so their factory horsepower reduces drastically.
Do Electric Cars Have Horsepower?
Recall when we said it’s more appropriate to say all cars have power? It’s the same for electric cars. They have power just like gas-powered cars.
However, it’s a little different. Most electric car makers use kilowatts to measure their power output. Technically, we can convert this to horsepower if that’s your preference.
So if an electric car generates 80 kilowatts, dividing by 0.746, we can deduce that it has about 107 HP. If you think that’s quite small in horsepower metric, you should know that it’s different for electric cars. How? Well, they put more of their generated power to use than cars with internal combustion engines do.
That’s right, they don’t have regular transmissions that drain power and reduce efficiency. So they use more of their power because less is lost via a drivetrain. Imagine a gas-powered car using its brake horsepower.
That’s almost what you get with EVs.
So, 107 HP in an EV performs better than 107 HP in a gas-powered car. Whether your electric car measures its power in watts or horsepower doesn’t matter. What matters is the practical output available for your driving.
So all cars have power, but there’s a lot more to driving than just power.
Hopefully, you now know the most relevant specifications to look out for while car shopping. Ultimately, you now know not to expect to see the horsepower figure of a heavy-duty truck on your compact car.
Unless it’s a truck, a sports car, or an SUV, moderate horsepower will serve you well.