What does KW mean in cars

Funny words from the automotive world: What does horsepower mean?

There are many terms in the automotive industry that you won't understand straight away. This is called technical language. Under some of these words you will probably imagine something completely different at first, because you know the words, but from a different context. Genius explains such terms to you. Today: the horsepower.

Perhaps you've heard a car owner say proudly: “My car has a lot of horsepower!” Horsepower stands for horsepower and is a unit of measurement used to measure the performance of machines. The performance of cars is also very often expressed in horsepower. But how much is a horsepower? And what does a horse have in common with a car?

James Watt: the inventor of horsepower

First of all, you have to know that horses were irreplaceable for humans in the past. In traffic, draft horses pulled large carriages and in agriculture work horses pulled heavy plows. Horses also helped in mining - the so-called pit horses drove large pumps with which they transported water from mines to the surface. The engineer James Watt developed a machine that could do the work of the pit horses faster and more effectively using machine power: the steam engine.

James, of course, wanted to sell his steam engines to many mine owners. That is why he invented the unit of measurement horse power in 1783 to compare the performance of horses with the performance of his machine: a horse could pull a weight of 75 kilograms one meter in one second. Watt defined this power as 1 hp, i.e. one horsepower. His steam engine could lift much more with machine power than the horses. The comparison not only convinced the mine owners, but also other industrialists and mill builders, and James' steam engine was very successful.

Strong engines with horsepower

And how did the horsepower get into the car? After the success of the steam engine, the unit of measurement was also used for other machines and their engines. Ever since there have been vehicles such as cars, buses and trucks, their engine power has been given in horsepower. You can imagine it like this: A car with 100 hp is visually pulled by 100 horses. With the difference that horses cannot run at 150 km / h. A 100 horsepower car can typically go 150 km / h or even faster.

Still, engine performance doesn't say much about a vehicle's speed. You will not believe this? A powerful tractor has around 400 hp, but cannot drive more than 50 km / h. Because the engine moves a much larger mass and for that it needs a lot of horsepower.

Watts instead of horsepower

You have probably also heard the terms watt or kilowatt. Like horse power, watt is a unit of measure for power. Since the introduction of watts, horsepower has been considered obsolete and, unlike horsepower, you can use the watt unit anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, the indication of horsepower is still very common in the German automotive industry and you will hear car owners and car lovers talk about horsepower again and again.


Post photo: Adobe Stock // Terri Cage

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