One Horsepower Doesn’t Sound Like Much Does It?

It’s actually quite an impressive amount of work, when you consider it compared to what the average human can accomplish alone.


Horsepower is defined as the power that a horse gives when pulling, and it is used informally to mean power, or is the power needed to raise 550 pounds a distance of one foot in one second or the power needed to move 33,000 pounds a distance of one foot in one minute.

Thirty Three THOUSAND pounds is 16 and 1/2 TONS.

This isn’t even a large horse,

one HP

That’s a pretty good idea of just how much one horsepower is compared to a humans capability.

So humans, being the clever little monkeys they are, came up with little gasoline powered engines that don’t need hay, water, rest and veterinarians.

This little Hit and Miss engine is probably close to a hundred years old and is rated at 3 1/2 times the capacity to do work compared to that one horse.


Of course you know the rest. Tractors, combines, cars, trucks, race cars, etc..

Top Fuel dragster engines are rated at over 10,000 horse power * but are pushed so far past the ragged edge of available knowledge and technology that they are a single use specialty item at this point.

top fuel

During almost the same timeline as the gas powered engines, electric motors were developed and after a few decades basically remained unchanged.

They also do extraordinary amounts of work in a fairly small package.

Combining them together is not a new idea either, electric cars were even more popular than gasoline powered cars at one time.

This little cutie is a model from 1905,


With the fairly recent improvements in battery technology along with vast improvements in electric motors and their power management, electric cars are making quite a come back.


Just like their gasoline powered competition, there is always someone wanting to push the envelope of technology and find out just how far they can push it

There are now a whole slew of Electric Dragsters.

electric dragster

One of the most recognizable names in  Top Fuel Drag Racing history,

Big Daddy Don Garlits, is pushing two hundred miles an hour in one already.

Over 2,000 horsepower.

This leap in technology happened in roughly 100 years.

From four legged horsepower to two hundred mile an hour electric speed competitions.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be out in the garage.

Tinkering with my ancient technology.



The * above is a revised number. I had originally posted 5,000 HP but was corrected in the comments by Scott that the actual numbers are 10,000 HP and possibly even more as provided by the link he so kindly supplied.

16 thoughts on “One Horsepower Doesn’t Sound Like Much Does It?

  1. Love You Blog Sir, but, last reliable report I saw several yrs ago stated that Top Fuel Dragsters and Funny Cars generate ove r 10,000 HP, and with no means to measure anymore, they suspect 11,000 as an estimate. One of us is wrong. I will look into it. Cool post, regardless. Scott, in Ohio

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the correction, I obviously haven’t been paying close enough attention!
      I updated the post with your more accurate numbers, gave you credit and posted the link you provided


      • We have another thing in common Phil. When I was young lad,
        my dad took me to the Irwindale drag strip. In the early 70s,
        every radio commercial break carried ads with language like
        “Will you be there when the 6-second barrier is broken?” I
        lost interest in the sport a few years later, but they just kept
        getting faster. A lot has happened since the good old days
        and shortening the track to 1/8 mile means I probably will not
        attend another drag race. It is like everything else that has
        passed us by in our lives if you don’t keep track of things.


  2. Electric motors have an advantage that ICE’s don’t. I roll my eyes every time I
    hear someone say that electric motors produce maximum torque at zero RPM.
    They produce zero torque at zero RPM. That should read at any RPM above
    zero. Notice how fast that dragster got off the line without tire spin. Even the
    battery fire-prone Teslas can accelerate faster than most conventional cars,
    but they still suffer from limited range and hideously long recharge times.

    There was a race between a vintage Model T and one of Elon’s latest
    models. The race was from Lansing Michigan to (I believe Boston.” The
    T (with a maximum speed of 40 MPH) was limited to highways. Even one
    Tesla engineer predicted that the Ford would win. Every 4-5 hours, the
    Tesla driver had to sit on his ass for 4-5 hours, but the Ford chugged away.
    The Tesla won because the Ford broke down, taking 2 hours or so to fix.

    If that vintage electric car is a Roberts, They got the same range on a charge
    as the hybrid Chevy Volt. All of the electromotive elements have been known
    since long before the first car rolled down a dirt road. This means apart from
    marginal increases in battery power density, there will be no quantum leap
    in EV range that would make them practical. It would be like trying to put
    10 pounds of shit in a 4-pound bag. Trying to get more squeal out of the
    pig will only make batteries more volatile.

    EV’s are the pet rock of the 21st Century.


  3. Hydraulic power transmission is pretty amazing too. I can hold a hydraulic pump good for 10HP continuous in the palm of my hand. Literally 1/10th the size of the engine that generates the power.


  4. You sure about that hit and miss? I would expect it to be a 1-1/2 HP by the look and size of it. Possibly (just) a 3. Sure as hell not a 5 HP though.

    Still, I have made that point many times. On a farm in the ’00s or the teens, a 1.4 HP power unit was an ENORMOUS amount of power. Didn’t get tired, didn’t need hay, didn’t need exercise or other care. Just gasoline and some cooling water. Plus it could be belted to many other pieces of specialized machinery…saws, grinders, pumps, etc.


  5. Great post, Phil.

    Electric motors are more efficient than IC engines. Electric motors are like 95% of the energy in goes into power out. In IC engines, it’s more like 25%. A lot of waste heat. Advantage to the EVs.

    What makes internal combustion more practical than batteries is what they call specific energy. It’s Watt Hours per unit weight, or “horsepower hours per pound” of the fuel. It’s usually measured in the Metric system, so that’s where you get the numbers the easiest. One HP is 750 Watts. One HP for one hour is 1HP*hr or 750 Watt*hours.

    The best EV batteries are running around 500 WH/kg (Watt-hours per kilogram), gasoline offers 12,000 WH/kg. To refill a tank takes a couple of minutes. To recharge those batteries takes hours. If you charge them faster, they overheat and die sooner. A battery pack for a Tesla is going to be thousands of bucks. Probably over $10,000.

    Fossil fuels charge the batteries, too, they’re just far enough away that the owner can’t see them.


    • “Fossil fuels charge the batteries, too” and power all of the industries to manufacture the batteries AND the vehicle that houses the batteries. To cost compare ICE to EV incalculable!

      Great article Phil. Do miss the roar of the TFD winding up on the line. EV’s will most likely never match that git punching, spine tingling experience.


  6. And I just spent $2200 to bump my ElectraGlide up to 95HP. A side effect of having to update the twin cam cam shoe engineering defect HD designed in all 99 to 06 twin cam engines. A 25 HP bump is quite noticeable.


  7. In building the off grid solar panel wind turbine powered system for our home I had to research a lot of shit because I only have a 7th grade formal education. dyslexia and math has always inhibited me, so I got to seat of the pants, intuitively engineer shit when needing to create something from scratch.
    There’s a lot of total arm chair keyboard total bullshit out there about making your own power to have electricity not from the mains grid and using other alternative forms of power to drive or run something.
    What really helped me to put things in proportion and perspective was the simple formula of 1 horse power in electrical terms, my case it needed to be in watts, that is it takes 780 watts to create 1 hp, all things being perfect, no line losses, resistance factors and the like. This worked easy, easy to grok, and to understand how it is a great reference in practical every day build it in you home shop, improvisation-ally wise, because there are no set standards, no established right or wrong way to build yourself a totally off-grid power system, and hardly any of the tiny little bits needed to tie everything together, mostly due to the battery set you need to store power and have a practical useful reserve for when the sun isn’t shining, (every night for about 12 hours or more, and the wind isn’t fast enough to overcome the drag from the magnets in the permanent magnet alternators I chose to run for the wind turbines and create enough torque to spin the blades at or above the “kick in speed” where you get a net gain in power needed to charge the battery set.
    That 780 watts per hp is a dandy formula. And it’s a real convenient component of the watts-ohms-voltage calculation formula that you need to figure out watts up with your system and its performance, and how much load you can run off your system based on how much your putting in, which always has to be more than you take out, or you need to put in extra, like with an engine driven PMA alternator.
    I figured out from watching how our system works, we are lucky if the conversion factor of watts to hp is 1/2 to 2/3rds, and vice versa. Everything eats energy, from the drag of the seals on the shaft bearing of the turbines, the drag of the magnetic flux as they pass by the fields, (PMA’s are brushless, no commutator, its an airgap design, like .005″ to .003″ between the magnet faces and copper field coils, various stall effects on the airfoil cord of the blades, how many blades, their swept area size, in relation to number of blades, the line loss down the tower to your battery, the runs from the solar cells to battery, there’s diades you need to stop backfeed, deal with shadows on the panels, every connection, relay, switch etc all eat up watts here watts there, they really add up, and there’s the losses thru your house as the power you have is used. It’s pretty complicated, drive you fucking nuts, till you grasp the formula’s in practical terms here Phil has listed, then it really simple. You can’t avoid losses, but, you can put in more power, and the formula’s help you figure that out in practical fashion, so all the nit picking purest chin music about solar energy, all the advertizing snakeoil crap, is hot air, and you can past that shit and get on with getting it working well.
    The watts ti HP formula helped me figure out the pulley ratio’s to drive a 400 amp 12voltDC PMA using an air-cooled 1500cc BeetleBug motor, how fast it needed to spin for cooling, and how many RPM’s both engine and PMA required to produce net gains at all charge levels without burning up the PMA from heat during the beginning of the battery charge cycle, as thats hen the most amps are needed, verses the higher voltage less amps in the last stages of charging. Besides the consideration if the gas drive is needed, the idea is max conservation of fuel, so getting the RPM’s on the Beetlebug motor is important in that way also.
    Once you get a “feel” for the important aspects, it’s really not much of a leap to go to battery powered stuff, like a go-kart, motorcycle car etc.
    I’ll tell you somethjing else too, and it should not be surprising, the car manufacturers, the globullshit-colding ecofreak con artists, they are lying thru their fucking teeth about their products, their theories, it is T.O.T.A.L. B.U.L.LS.H.I.T they are feeding us, they get away with it cause most of us are ignorant of the practical limitations that are irrefutable. 748 Watts to the Horsepower is irrefutable physics. Like math, it can not be changed into some make believe unicorn cow flop. It is absolute.
    It has been an incredible revelation for me in practical and politikal terms.
    You have no fucking idea how fucked up everything fucking is with the big corporate/crony corruption and it’s handmaiden from hell the ecofreaks and their globullshit method actor creepy little Gore Greta NPC trillions of dollars racketeering scheme.

    That 748 Watts per HP is like a wooden stake in their bloodsucking leech hearts.
    No wonder why dumbing down America and the hive mind factories of complete total ignorance of academia is the 3rd leg of the despotism they are trying to shove up our arses.
    They need a civilization of stupid you can’t fix to rule over us.

    Never mind, imagine just 100,000 American’s who build their own off-grid power generation, how much money that is every month they are denied. Our neighbors in WV here spend average 150 to over 200 bucks a month on electricity. Do the math: 100,000 x 200 x 12, I get this number: $240,000,000. Is that a quarter of a billion dollars? From only 100,000 people cutting the cord, in a country of 345 million possible cord cutters?
    Talk about a non violent way to wage revolution on the money changers and TPTB.
    Think about it. 748 Watts per HP.
    Bake your noodle?
    It should.
    Bakes mine and I’m one guy doing it.

    The cherry on top is another thing entirely. How would you like to take about $9000 bucks, invest it in power generation, and get back $150 to over $200 greenbacks a month, plus, never have a power bill.

    Every month, we bought, cash on the barrelhead, parts pieces equipment supplies, for 5 years, until we had the componants to start making our system. The largest outlay was the battery. A lead wet acid cell, forktruck battery, with frieght, picked up at the FedEx truck depot, on a pallet, a 780lbs 12VDC 1250 amp hour motive power battery, built fresh on our order, was $1762 bucks, plus the fuel to pick it up in the half ton truck. Everything else was nickle dime, 100 bucks here, a few $350 dollar inverters, 6 $285 dollar solar panels, pipe, lumber, cable, breakers, $300 PMA’s, pipe to build towers, bagged concrete for tower footers, rebar, fasteners, turnbuckles etc.

    For the rest of our lives, free electricity, couple hundred bucks we keep every month, never need a generator for when the mains power shits the bed in a storm or whatever. In fact, power goes out up here, sometimes we never know it did till we talk with a neighbor.

    And you notice something else?
    How come the globullshit colding ecofreaks aren’t advocating our donating the billions they steel and grift from us to get people off grid power?
    Would that not be the finest way to limit any potential atmospheric pollution or bad weather effects?
    Funny how that shit works huh?


  8. The brick wall for electrics has always been, and will continue to be, usable time vs restoration time which must be performed in a static state. If a means could be found to eliminate the static state charge times electric could, theoretically, be a bigger winner.

    Which keeps bring me back to a variation on what the Prius does: run a gasoline engine to provide motive force and eliminate the static restoration period (standing still while charging).

    Diesel engines are more fuel efficient than gasoline, and any ICE designed for maximum efficiency at one particular RPM is more efficient yet (look at racing engines, esp. 2-strokes: high power output but extremely narrow power bands and, interestingly, fuel volume consumed per HP generated often goes down slightly in the center of that flashbulb-like power band). So why hasn’t anyone coupled a small, highly efficient, constant speed turbo diesel to an alternator as a co-generation system in an electric car? I’d bet a liter of displacement max, probably around 800cc or so, about .6 -.8 GPH, so 10 gallons would translate to ~750 miles, plus the 90-150 in fully charged batteries when fuel was exhausted.

    One might start thinking the greenies and SJWs and their enablers in industry are more interested in virtuous preening then productivity.


  9. When I was a boy growing up in 50’s/60’s Boston, they still had electric buses, which were “fueled” by overhead wires. The buses had two long antennas that slid on the wires to draw current. This was a dedicated DC system operated by the MTA.

    Those buses could drag. I don’t think there was a car on the streets that could beat an electric bus through and intersection.

    During the 1965 black out, the MTA power plant still ran, and so did the buses and trains.


    • Yeah, I remember those bob, think it was called the Green Line rode on once. Went to see the Red Sox with my cousin, we had come down from NH to visit, it was two dimes to ride from Newton Corners to Kenmore Square.
      Those buses where quiet, and made like a cast iron frying pan, very comfortable big ol seats too, open windows, really cool. Your right about that them getting going fast from a dead start.
      We stopped at a hotel where the ball players stayed side of Kenmore Sq my cousin said we might get some players to give their autographs, it was few hours before the game, Reggie Lewis, Karl Yuscramski, however its spelled, Louis Tiant, bunch of players where standing out side waiting on limos, we went up to George Scott with his dark face and big ol gold teeth and got his autograph, he was a giant of a guy, real sweet man, he asked where I was from and he said your along way from your CowHampshire farm kid, we laughed our butts off they way he had this big old toothy grin on his mug, my cousin Stevie was from Allston, a real born Boston Mick, he went up asked Reggie for an autograph and Reggie said beat it ya brat, Stevie didn’t even hesitate, said “fuck you you fuckin’ nigger”, Reggie was about 2 steps away with his back half turned and stops dead, looks at my cousin with one mean ass face and says “what did you say boy?” Stevie says “you heard me you fuckin’ nigger”, I’m like holy shit to myself, Reggie moved like greased lightning and goes to grab my cousin and he slips out of the cutoff T shirt he’s wearing that Reggie has a grip on and yell’s time to go, couple of the players was yelling and layghing and shit, reggie chased us into the next block, man I was terrified, that guy was fast, we only beat him by running under a delivery truck lift gate and Reggie was too big to keep up with us going under. He was yelling I’m gonna beat your white ass you little shits.
      Different world back then, like another galaxy now.


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