What is HP (horsepower)?

  • How does horsepower work?
  • How does it differ to other power units?
  • Parkers explains the ins and outs

HP (horsepower) is a unit used to measure a vehicle’s power output. Horsepower is the German translation of pferdestarke (usually abbreviated to ps) and is therefore the same unit of measurement.

Not to be confused with imperial brake horsepower (bhp), which, although also used to measure a vehicle’s power output and often a similar figure, is a different type of unit (1bhp = 0.9863hp).

How does horsepower work?

 A vehicle’s horsepower is measured as the power output from the engine, or crankshaft. This will be slightly greater than the amount of power the vehicle is putting down on the road because there are always frictional losses in the transmission between engine and tarmac.

Maximum power is usually expressed in this style: 120hp @ 6,000rpm, signifying how hard the engine is working when it delivers peak power.

Do I need horsepower?

 Yes. Without power, your vehicle will not move! Having said that, pure electric cars measure their power output in kilowatts (kw) instead of horsepower.

All combustion-powered vehicles in production generate horsepower. Not to be confused with torque, which is the measure of how hard a vehicle can pull.

Horsepower vs Duckpower

How does horsepower compare to duckpower? According to 'internet maths', one horsepower equates to 30 duckpower. 

For example, the latest Porsche 911 has 450hp, which equates to 13,500 duckpower. 

How much horsepower does your car have? 

Check out the Parkers reviews to find out how much horsepower your car has. Here are a few examples: 

Lamborghini Aventador horsepower - you'll find up to 740bhp in this not-very-subtle supercar. 

Nissan GTR horsepower: when launched in 2009, the Nissan GTR produced 480hp, but the revised editions from 2017 have increased this to 570hp, while the range-topping Nismo packs 600hp.

Audi R8 horsepower - the high-revving monster of a V10 engine in the R8 gives you 570hp (it was upgraded in 2019, from just 540hp). The R8 V10 Performance gives you even more, with up to 620hp. 

BMW i8 horsepower: the i8 develops 357bhp and 570Nm of torque, and can sprint from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds.


Looking for more jargon-busting motoring meanings? Head over to our Parkers Car Glossary page and take a look at our other definitions