What power do you choose?

Whenever a new vehicle comes into the market, power figures are denoted in either BHP, HP or PS. To those who think cars are nothing but vehicles that can carry half-a-dozen people, who want to simultaneously connect their phones for charging them, these acronyms are as important as a snake’s ear.

But for those who have even the faintest knowledge about cars and bikes, they know that Brake Horsepower (BHP), Horse Power (HP) and Pferdestrke (PS – literally meaning ‘horse strength’) denote the power that a vehicle makes.

The term horsepower was invented by James Watt who is known for his work on improving performance of steam engines in the 18th and 19th century.

The story goes that Watt was working with ponies lifting coal at a coal mine, and he wanted a way to talk about the power available from one of these animals.

He found that on average, a mine pony could do 22,000 foot-pounds of work in a minute. He then increased that number by 50 per cent and pegged the measurement of horsepower at 33,000 foot-pounds of work in one minute.

It is that arbitrary unit of measure that has made its way down the years and is now used for our cars, trucks and even vacuum cleaners.

But there is a big flaw in the measurement as major assumptions are made in the way horsepower is defined, pretty much like many other western theorems and calculations that we have all, somehow, come to accept.

Today, all three denotions have found their way into the automotive world and car-makers prefer giving figures in PS because, well, in PS, the number is higher, as 1PS = 0.986 HP.

But I think, with the onslaught of electric vehicles, and associated technologies, we all should start using kilo Watts (kW) as Watts are an SI unit, meaning they are based around the metre, kilogram, joule and second that make up the metric system. It is a measurement of energy transfer over time.

If the automotive world starts using kW instead of conventional denotions, we all will be better off, because, think about it, having too many hands in a pie makes a mess of it.

It would also make things a lot easier, because, frankly, explaining the difference between BHP and HP to a normal person is unfathomable. And who would want to know how many crates of coal their electric engine can pull, rather than knowing its exact power?

It was when I was thinking about electric vehicles that I remembered that the government, through its FAME scheme, gives back money to people for buying hybrid or electric vehicles.

Now, by today’s standards, if a person buys a hybrid car that costs around Rs 40 lakh, s/he would get a cashback of around Rs 1.4 lakh (approx) from the government and who pays that? The general public do.

It is important to know this, because a fruit vendor, a bus driver, sanitary worker, all pay for a wealthy person who can buy those cars – hybrid cars are not cheap in India right now.

The next time one thinks how their wallets empty faster than it did before, they should remember that it is because of a government that aids people to buy a vehicle that does no good to the environment, but pretends to do so.

It is a bit like saying I have planted a sapling and now everybody in India should give me money to maintain it. Would people pay? They are made to!

Praveen Kumar S