What’s the Difference Between Power and Torque

Torque and power are what engines produce when they run and accelerate. In cars, when the air and fuel ignite in the combustion chambers, the transmission, drive axels, and crankshaft make a twisting motion. The potential energy contained in the fuel is efficiently changed to kinetic energy so that the car will move forward when it is driven.

When it comes to cars, there is always confusion between horsepower and torque. Although they may be similar in some ways, and some people use the terms interchangeably, they are actually used in different contexts and for different purposes. This article will help clear up that confusion and will lay out the differences between a car’s power and torque.

What Is Power? 

Power is defined in common terms as the capacity of an object to move with an increase in speed and acceleration. To measure power, one would need to measure forces and their relationships.  

In machines, power can be measured in terms of the horsepower capacity of its engines. Generally, the bigger the engine, the greater its horsepower. A small engine will have a lower wattage (horsepower) than a larger engine, but this does not always mean that larger and more powerful engines are heavier than small engines. 

For example, an engine of 500 hp is not as powerful as an engine of 1.5 hp. So, the 500-hp engine is less than half as powerful as the 1.5-hp engine, but the latter is only half as heavy as the smaller engine. 

What Is Torque? 

Torque refers to the application of pressure directly at a stationary pole and tends to cause a twisting force. For example, when the bolt and nut are tightened, both plates are locked together by friction. As the bolt and nut speed increases, the torques are added, which increases bolt stress, tension, and wear. In simple terms, torque is the force that will make an object move around an axis. 

When a shaft of the crankshaft rotates, it applies force to an end. The shaft rotates in a linear direction, but a piston’s shaft applies radial force. So, when you apply radial force, the end product is a rotation. This is what happens to the power stroke. 

The radial force that was applied to the engine is torque. As this rotary force is applied, the shaft of the crankshaft rotates. In the engine’s case, the power is generated through the crankshaft, and the generated torque is transferred to the engine through the crankcase.

In cars, the torque that an engine can provide is derived from its horsepower. Horsepower, however, is not the only factor that goes into calculating the engine torque. The amount of displacement of the piston or cylinder, the dead zone, and the compression ratio also affect the engine’s torque. It depends on the amount of friction between the moving parts and how much vacuum there is between the moving parts. 

Understanding The Difference Between Power vs. Torque 

Horsepower and torque are two different measurements of how fast an engine or vehicle can move. Horsepower measures the power exerted by an engine, while torque refers to the force that is applied to a motor. In a machine or engine, you need to use high quality solutions of force sensors and load cells to check the numerical figures for both of them.  

A lightweight sports car with high Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) could have great horsepower, but it might be low on torque. This is because only a small amount of force is applied for it to attain a fast rate. Trucks and buses, however, are operating with high torque and low horsepower. This is because they need more force to move forward, but they don’t have to be moving at top speed.

Application Of Power And Torque In Engines 

In a diesel engine, the stroke length and cylinder pressure are the main factors that increase its torque. The long strokes give the pistons leverage as they rotate, causing more force or pressure that is applied to the cylinders. 

As diesel engines produce more torque, it also produces more power. This is because the combustion temperature of the diesel fuel is also designed for higher torques. More torque also means that the fuel has faster combustion rates because it has greater compression.  

For electric cars, it was observed that they have higher torque compared to gas-powered vehicles. This is because electric motors, which are one of the primary components of electric cars, use electric current that moves through a magnetic field. This creates the necessary force to rotate the armature and help the car move. 


In the most basic sense, both the horsepower and torque affect the overall performance of the car. In simpler terms, torque refers to the ability of the vehicle to move. On the other hand, horsepower dictates how fast the vehicle can perform or move.

Knowing the difference will help you pick the right car. If you want a fast one, choose a car with great horsepower. But if you wish to get a car that has enough space and legroom, and still can run at a relatively good speed, you have to choose one that has good torque.