Horsepower vs Torque is a question that baffles many. Even the most adept of mechanical people. Over beers, you can sometimes hear the debate. This is the mechanical version of "If you give a Mouse a Cookie". Because to understand, it isn't comparing apples and oranges but understanding how horsepower and torque interact and influence each other.
So let's break it down first-to definitions and functions of each, and how they interact.
Horsepower is a term that originally came from the fact that people used real horses to power machinery. The term was coined in the late18th century and compared the power of draft horses to the output of steam engines. It later included the output power of piston engines, turbines, electric motors and many other kinds of machinery. Different countries and different means of using horsepower have different names and different measurements. Often these differences add to the confusion that some have. However, the two most common are mechanical horsepower (otherwise known as imperial horsepower), and the metric horsepower. The first being 746 watts, and the second 735.5 watts.
Torque is a rotational force that can be thought of as a twist to an object. The magnitude of torque depends on three quantities: the force applied, the length of the lever and the angle.
Now it gets fun.
Mathematically, horsepower equals torque multiplied by RPM (Revolutions per minute).
So, is better to have torque or horsepower? Given that they are interdependent this seems like an odd question. However, now we come to gear ratio. Where the gear ratio is the input speed relative to the output speed. Think of all those pictures of little and big gears fitting together. The gear ratio is the number of teeth on the driven gear (big gear) divided by the number of teeth on the drive gear (little gear).
So, depending on the overall gear ratio, generally, horsepower is the most important measure. Because that's the power that drives the engine.
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