Let’s say you’re in the market to buy a new vehicle. The first thing you will most likely look at is the spec sheet. The spec sheet contains all the things you need to know about a car. It contains the features, safety, and most importantly, the power output of the vehicle. The latter is often broken down into power and torque.
Torque and power are what an engine produces when you turn the key and step on the gas. Air and fuel are ignited creating power, this power is then sent into the crankshaft, transmission, and drive axles. The axles then turn the wheels, causing the car to move forward or backward.
Lets get technical
A few key terms you will need to understand before the real explanation of horsepower and torque begins. First is energy, which is the capacity to do work. For cars, work is done by the engine of the vehicle, this was formally done by horses, hence, the term horsepower.
Work, on the other hand, is the result of a force acting over some distance. This can be in meters or by feet. In other countries, the measurement used is pound-foot, but in the Philippines, the chosen unit is in Newton-meters.
Torque is a rotational force produced by an engine and its crankshaft. The more torque an engine produces, the greater its ability to perform work. The measurement of torque is similar to that of work; it is measured by a force exerted on a certain distance. Torque is a vector as it acts in a certain direction. Either pound-feet or newton-meters usually quantify it.
Power is how rapidly work is accomplished. So if an engine has a lot of power, it can accomplish work a lot faster. One horsepower is the power required to lift 33,000 pounds precisely one foot in one minute. Now that we’ve covered the complicated parts, let’s go move on to what these exactly do for your car.
Without being too technical, here is what Horsepower (HP) and Torque do to your vehicle. Having a vehicle with high HP figures means that the vehicle is fast and is able to achieve high speeds. This is why performance cars often have higher horsepower figures compared to your standard commuter car. Excellent examples of high horsepower engines are of the gasoline kind. While they are low on torque, they often give out higher HP numbers.
Torque, on the other hand, is the ability of a vehicle to accelerate quickly. As mentioned earlier torque is a twisting force, and this twisting force is translated onto the wheels. The wheels get your vehicle moving from a standstill. Having more torque means that the vehicle can accelerate quicker. So if you want a quick vehicle, look for one with a high torque figure. This is also the reason why performance cars have high torque figures to allow them to hit high speeds faster. Examples of powerplants with high torque numbers are diesel engines. While these don’t produce much HP, they more than makeup for it in torque. This is also why diesel engines are more commonly used in trucks where they have to carry heavy loads.
Why these two factors are important
These are two essential things to consider when purchasing a car because these two factors can help determine if a car’s engine will be too stressed. Having a low horsepower and torque engine in a heavy SUV will make the engine work harder. It means the engine will have to use up more fuel to get the vehicle moving, which is bad for fuel economy.
Looking for a vehicle with the right balance of both will not only give you the thrill of moving quickly but will also give you excellent fuel economy numbers in return.