Most cars measure power in horsepower, but bhp isn’t the only unit manufacturers use to tell us how much punch there is in the engine.
Pferdestärke, or PS for short, and Kilowatts (kW) are two less commonly used units for determining a car’s engine power that mostly appear in continental Europe.
Our tool converts between all three, so you can check a car’s horsepower at a glance.
How powerful is my car?
Car manufacturers sometimes quote their engine horsepower using different units, which can be confusing when trying to compare new cars.
This handy calculator allows you to quickly and easily convert between the three main measurements used – bhp, kW and PS.
What is bhp?
Brake horsepower – or bhp – is the most widely used measure of engine power alongside PS (see below), although it is often unclear which unit manufacturers use in their brochures.
Unlike “horsepower”, which refers to the total horsepower of an engine, brake horsepower only considers the amount of power left after other parts such as the gearbox, alternator and water pump were all energized. It is measured at the road wheels, not at the flywheel.
Powerful engines have a higher hp figure. For example, an entry-level Toyota iQ has a 68 hp engine, while a supercharged Jaguar XF develops 503 hp.
Although still commonly used by car manufacturers, PS or Pferdestärke (horse force in German) was actually replaced by kW as the EU’s “legal” measure of engine power in 1992.
One PS is approximately 98.6% of brake horsepower – the two are virtually interchangeable, and PS is sometimes referred to as “metric horsepower”.
Measurement power in kilowatts
You may see some car manufacturers quoting their engine horsepower in kilowatts – especially on the continent – but this measurement is used much less frequently than PS or bhp. One kilowatt (kW) of power equals approximately 1.34 hp.
So what is torque?
Torque refers to the amount of pulling power a motor delivers when operating at different speeds. The more torque an engine has, the more traction (or acceleration) it offers at low rpm.
Torque is almost always discussed alongside stopping power, as it gives clues to how quickly the engine will be able to shift the weight of the car when passing or pulling away from traffic lights.
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