The Physics
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Power of a Car

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Cutnell & Johnson. Physics Third Edition. New York: Wiley, 1995: 182. "Thus, the average speed is v = 11.5 m/s, and the average power is P = Fv = (5060 N)(11.5 m/s) = 5.82 × 104 W (78.0 hp)." 58 kW
Science and Technology Desk Reference. Second Edition. Detroit: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 1996: 376. "A typical automobile requires about 20 horsepower to propel it at 50 mi (80.5 km) per hour." 15 kW
Automobile Technology. Second Edition. San Diego: Harcourt Bruce Jovanovich, 1992: 432. "Within the power range required to drive an automobile (about 20-200 kW for passenger vehicles and 20-300 kW for commercial vehicles)." 20-200 kW
1909 Model T. Michigan Historical Center. Henry Ford Museum and Greenwich Village. 1909 Ford Model T. 1999. "The vehicle was comprised of a 4-cylinder, "L"head engine, a 2-speed, planetary transmission, had horsepower of 20, weighed 1,200 pounds and cost $850." 15 kW
"Most Powerful Car." Guinness Book of Records 2001. New York: Guinness, 2001: 135. "The most powerful production car on the market is the McLaren F1 6.1, which develops an excess of 627 hp." 468 kW

The power of a car is very important when one looks into a specific vehicle. When we watch or read a car advertisement, they never fail to mention the horsepower of the vehicle. The horsepower varies in different types of cars. One thing is common in all cars; the engine within the car is the producer of the power to move the vehicle. The power is available from the engine crankshaft after a fuel, usually gasoline, is burned in the engine cylinders.

Most automotive vehicles are powered by a spark-ignition four-stroke-cycle internal combustion engine. Some passenger cars and trucks have diesel engines. Other types of engines include the steam engine and gasoline engine. Automotive engines can be supercharged or turbocharged, which may increase engine power up to 50%. This enables a small engine to perform like a naturally aspirated larger engine. Thus, the power of a car may vary no matter what the size of the car may be.

Horsepower is the common unit of power. Power is the rate at which work is done. Because the power of the car is described in horsepower, it must be converted to watts in order to get the international unit. One horsepower is equivalent to 746 watts.

Jae-hee Joh -- 2001