Does one horsepower really equal the power of one horse?


1y ago

For the past hundred or so years there has been a universal standard for measuring the power output of a given vehicle, horsepower. This seems like a really straightforward system, as the world was transitioning from horses to cars this must have been a great way to visualize the power of cars.

Because while the worlds first car, the Benz Patent Motorwagen had an eye-wattering 3 horsepower, this did not mean that it was the same as strapping three horses to the front of the thing. Because, the Benz had an equivalent of 44.7 horses pulling it. See, a common misconception is that one horsepower is the same as the peak power output of an actual horse, the truth is that it's closer to 14.9 horses per horsepower.


The initial definition of horsepower was created by James Watt, which was based on the continuous, sustained power output of a horse. He measured how much water a horse could raise in a minute, at a normal walking pace, which turned out to be 550 ft-lbs/s. That soon became the baseline measurement for 1 HP. Furthermore, the average person can produce up to 5 HP at their peak.

V​W Group

V​W Group

T​hink about it this way, a Bugatti Chiron produces roughly 1,500 Horsepower. That is the equivalent of 22,350 horses all hooked up to one car. This truly gives you an appreciation for how brilliant engines are. Because, a package which is smaller than a horse is capable of producing the power equivalent of over 22,000 horses.

F​urthemore, as electric supercars continue to develop, we will be able to fit more and more power into increasingly smaller packages. For example, the rear electric motor on a Tesla alone produces over 400 HP, in a package that is no bigger than your average watermelon.


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Comments (35)

  • I can't believe this. Those 50cc mopeds feel like than can barely drag itself, while a horse can drag a cut-down tree, uphill!

      1 year ago
    • There's a difference between horsepower and torque. It is the reason why the moped struggles and the horse can drag a tree.

        1 year ago
    • What you're saying is, a horse is a diesel engine, a 50cc moped, well not the best petrol example...

        1 year ago
  • But the horse only eats grass and is way more beautiful then any car. Would love it to go shopping on a horse.

      1 year ago
    • that's horse shit... Never read anything that false! You never had a horse, did you?

        1 year ago
    • Yes I had. Nothing false about this wonderful animal. And you know, it reproduces itself, can't say that about a Veyron.

        1 year ago
  • This article is absolute horseshit.

    You should do you homework and maybe take a math class.

    One horse can output 14.9 horsepower! Not the other way around like you mention.

    3 horsepower would be equivalent to 0.2 horses pulling it. So not very powerful.

    Maybe start by carefully reading this article again.

      6 months ago
  • But if you strap 22,000 horses to the front of a Veyron they still couldn't match the top speed.

      1 year ago
  • I think you've got the ratios back to front using the 1925 Iowa State Fair calculations that the average horse actual produces 14.9 horsepower. Other scientific research published in 1993 suggest that a horse may produce up to 24 horsepower.

      1 month ago