Some good read that I just discovered: I like the last part.
Horsepower is a measure of power, which is a technical term in physics. It measures the amount of work that a force does as it acts over time. Work is another technical term in physics. It measures the actual effect of a force in moving an object over a distance. If we move an object one foot by applying a force of one pound, we are said to be doing one footpound of work. If it takes us one second to move the object, we have exerted one footpound per second of power. A horsepower is 550 footpounds per second. It is another one of those historical units that Napoleon hated and that has no reasonable origin in science.
We can expend one horsepower by exerting 550 pounds of force to move an object 1 foot in 1 second, or by exerting 1 pound of force to move an object 550 feet in 1 second, or by exerting 1 pound of force to move an object 1 foot in 0.001818 seconds, and so on. All these actions take the same amount of power. Incidentally, a horsepower happens to be equal also to 745 watts. So, if you burn about 8 light bulbs in your house, someone somewhere is expending at least one horsepower (and probably more like four or five) in electrical forces to keep all that going for you, and you pay for the service at the end of the month!.
All this means that to find out how much horsepower it takes to overcome air resistance at any speed, we need to multiply the force of air resistance by speed (in feet per second, converted from miles per hour), and divide by 550, to convert footlb/sec to horsepower. The formula is
and we get the following numbers from the formula for a few interesting speeds.
v (mph) 30 55 65 90 120 150 200
F (pounds) 14.5 48.7 68.0 130 232 362 644
horsepower 1.16 7.14 11.8 31.3 74.2 145 344
I put 55 mph and 65 mph in this table to show why some people think that the 55 mph national speed limit saves gasoline. It only requires about 7 hp to overcome drag at 55 mph, while it requires almost 12 hp to overcome drag at 65. Fuel consumption is approximately proportional to horsepower expended.
More interesting to the racer is the fact that it takes 145 hp to overcome drag at 150 mph. We know that our Corvette example car has about 240 hp, so about 95 hp must be going into overcoming rolling resistance and the slight braking forces arising from internal friction in the drive train and wheel bearings. Race cars capable of going 200 mph usually have at least 650 hp, about 350 of which goes into overcoming air resistance. It is probably possible to go 200 mph with a car in the 450500 hp range, but such a car would have very good aerodynamics; expensive, lowfriction internal parts; and low rolling resistance tyres, which are designed to have the smallest possible contact patch like high performance bicycle tyres, and are therefore not good for handling.
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