Ah, horsepower, a term used to describe cars. However, in a recent discussion with my friends, it seems that there’s a lot of confusion about the meaning, so today’s post is going to be dedicated to the term!

The term horsepower refers to the amount of power, which in physics is defined as the rate in which work is done, where work is thought of as the transfer of energy from one form or one place to another. So to sum it up, horsepower is the rate in which energy is transformed from one form or one place to another. The actual unit definition came from James Watt.

The term came from a man known as James Watt who wanted a term to refer to the amount of power that a pony lifting coal out of a coal mine could do. In the example from the photo below, 1 horsepower would be 330 pounds of coal moved 100 feet in 1 minute or 33 pounds of coal 1,000 feet in 1 minute or 1,000 pounds 33 feet in one minute. You can change these measurements any way you like as long as the final outcome is 33,000 foot-pounds per minute.



So now when we refer to a car and its horsepower, we’re essentially discussing the maximum amount of power a car can put out. If a car were to have 375hp then that would mean it could produce a maximum of 375* 33,000 foot-pounds per minute. It is a bit confusing, but I hope my explanation helped!

Fun Fact: When we refer to a 60-watt lightbulb we are referring to James Watt’s last name!


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