This is the difference between torque and horsepower

Words: NIle Bijoux
23 Jan 2018

Engines aren’t simply a cage for harnessing explosions. They’re meticulously tuned and fettled to offer the optimal driving experience, depending on the application. Two terms that are thrown about a lot in the ’biz are ‘horsepower’ and ‘torque’. But what exactly do they mean?

Thankfully, Engineering Explained is on hand to help. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Torque is a force applied at a distance. In an engine, combustion is the force applied to the crankshaft at the distance of the connecting rod. Horsepower is the rate at which work is done. Coincidentally, horsepower is also torque multiplied by RPM.

Jason Fenske, the host of Engineering Explained, gives an example to demonstrate the differences between horsepower and torque. Two cars that are the same in size and mass are in a race. Car 1 has 200 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque, while Car 2 has 100hp and 200lb-ft of torque. Who wins? If you said Car 1, you’d be right, as it completes the work of getting to the finish line more quickly.

Gears are one way to manipulate torque. Fenske uses the example of a wrench to illustrate this. One with a longer handle allows for a higher torque even though the force is the same regardless of length. The differentiation is because torque is a force multiplied by distance, so if distance increases, so does torque. Gears act just like leverage.

If it still doesn’t make sense, check out the video above. I certainly needed a few replays to semi-understand the concepts. It also pays to remember that the video is American, so the units are different. However, the concepts are still the same.


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