Top 5 Things With Serious Horsepower

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If you’re like every single person on earth, you are probably comfortable with the term “horsepower,” but have no idea what it actually means. So before we present this list about powerful propulsion, let’s deal with the obvious question: What the hell is horse power? Is it the … power of a horse? The answer is: sort of. A unit of horsepower measures the rate at which “work” is done, i.e. energy expelled to exert force. A single horsepower unit can exert 550 “foot-pounds” per second. Still with us? Not at all? OK, picture a horse pulling a rope attached to a 550-pound weight that’s suspended over a pulley: The amount of effort the horse will expend in a second of lifting/pulling the weight is one horsepower. Clear as mud, right? Well, thank you James Watt for nothing – and let’s get started!

5 The Space Shuttle

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Though this year saw the retirement of the last of America’s iconic Space Shuttles (AKA Orbiters), they shall not soon be forgotten. And we’re guessing you won’t soon forget this fun Space Shuttle fact! At peak thrust, the Shuttle’s combined main engines and solid rocket boosters produced more than 37 MILLION horsepower! No wonder a launch is called a blast-off, huh?

4 An Aircraft Carrier

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A Nimitz Class of aircraft carrier is the largest fighting ship ever built. By a longshot. These ships are around a thousand feet long and carry more than 6,000 people at any given time. It takes a lot of power to move a boat like that … a lot of horsepower. How does around 260,000 HP sound? The Nimitz Class carriers get this power thanks to nuclear reactors, of course, but even their backup diesel engines put off an impressive 11,000 horsepower.

3 A Train

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Trains come in all shapes and sizes these days (though “long and skinny with a series of cars linked together” tends to be the most popular shape) and are powered in a variety of ways. But every train, ranging from the charming steam engine ferrying tourists around an amusement park to the bullet trains hurtling across Europe or Asia, boasts serious horsepower. Most diesel-electric locomotives that are used to haul freight put out between 4,000 and 6,000 HP, while some of the bullet trains put out more than 25,000 horsepower as they hit speeds in excess of 350 MPH!

2 The HTT Pléthore

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If you have a half a million bucks burning a hole in your bank account, why not turn it into this Canadian-built sports car that has a horsepower rating of approximately 1,300!? For a bit of perspective, all four engines on the iconic WWII B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber produced just 3,000 HP. The HTT Pléthore has a power-to-weight ratio just about equivalent to that of a Formula 1 Racecar.

1 A Horse!

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What has more horsepower than an actual horse? Just about any type of engine, you say? Correct. But we wanted to take a minute to further expand on just how this strange, ultra-specific unit of measurement can be understood. So it’s the horse’s ability to move 550 pounds a second, or 33,000 pounds a minute. That was the starting point. But once we moved from four-legged power to engine power, science-types soon found other comparable measures for a single “unit” of horsepower: 745 watts of electricity, or about 2,550 BTUs. How are watts and BTUs calculated? That’s another story entirely.

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