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Imagine the scenario where you find the perfect van that suits your needs! It’s the right size, very comfortable, and has an attractive price tag. It even has a cargo capacity and payload that’s perfect for your business requirements.

It seems perfect, only to discover it comes in 2 available engine sizes with different power values. Having options is a good thing, but sometimes, the choice can be frustrating in fear of making a mistake when it is decision time.

So the question is, how do you determine what engine size is right for your van and your business?

What is Horsepower

This can get a little technical, but in essence, it’s a measurement of power produced by your engine.

Simply put, this unit of power is the rate at which work is accomplished. In other words, the faster an engine completes its power stroke, the more power it produces.

So how can a potential van owner use this information to determine the importance of horsepower? We answer this question below.

The Importance of Horsepower

All things being equal, the more horsepower you have, the quicker you can accelerate and the higher your van’s top speed. A more responsive van means the safe and quick overtaking of other vehicles, particularly under motorway conditions.

We’ve all seen larger, slower vehicles overtaking on the motorway and the potential dangers associated with that! Luckily though, vans are far more responsive than they once were and drive and handle more like cars.

A more technical explanation of horsepower is the power needed to move 550 pounds (249.476 kg) one foot (0.3048m) in one second.

The Different Measurements of Horsepower on the Van Market

To make things even more confusing, there are 3 measurements of engine power listed on the market by van manufacturers.

These include Kilowatts (kW), Brake Horsepower (BHP), and Pferdestärke (PS), and they are all used in the auto industry to describe an engine’s power.

The problem is, each measurement gives different results. So let’s break down these differences:

Understanding Kilowatts (kW)

Kilowatts, named after James Watt (who incidentally coined the term “horsepower”) is a metric unit. This is the least used of the 3 measurements to express engine power.

Understanding Brake Horsepower (BHP)

Brake Horsepower is the most commonly referred unit for marketing vehicle engines. While Horsepower (HP) refers to the engine’s total output power, brake horsepower (BHP) takes into consideration the parts of the vehicle the engine needs to power.

These parts draw away a certain amount of power and what is left over is BHP.

Understanding Pferdestärke (PS)

Pferdestärke (PS) literally translates to “horse strength” in the German language. Therefore, as can be imagined, the unit is going to be very similar to Brake Horsepower.

It is a unit that was popular in Europe and can still be seen as a measurement in the UK.

There is a marginal difference between PS and BHP, with PS being 98.6% of a BHP.
Therefore, if you come across PS units and find yourself confused by them, then simply use this equation to convert them into the more familiar BHP:

BHP = PS ÷ 1.0139

Conversation table between the 3 units of power

On the subject of conversions, we have in place a table for you.

Simply use these equations to determine the power unit you are more familiar with depending on what manufacturers are using to express for their vehicles.

BHP = PS x 0.9864

BHP = kW x 1.341

PS = BHP x 1.0139

PS = kW x 1.3596

kW = BHP x 0.7457

kW = PS x 0.7355

What is Torque

Torque is another term that gets thrown around in the automotive industry. Horsepower and torque are interconnected, but it is also important to note they are not the same thing.

Torque is effectively a rotational (turning) force or “pulling power” of a vehicle.

Imagine two identical engines which have the exact horsepower. They are connected to a pulley system designed to lift the same load off the ground.

The larger the pulley radius, the more torque is applied. This will generally mean the load will lift up at a slower speed than a smaller pulley, but it also means it has more pulling power and is harder to slow down.

In essence, torque can be described as the measurement of power at any given engine speed. It can be calculated using the following equation.

Horsepower(PS) = Torque(Kg) x RPM(Engine Speed) / 5252

Why is Torque Important

The mid-range performance of a vehicle can make the difference between a comfortable & safe drive and a frustrating & dangerous one.

We’ve all experienced driving a vehicle at a comfortable 70mph, only to hit an incline and the engine suddenly struggles to pull. Naturally, we drop it down a gear, which provides sufficient pulling power, but now your speed is greatly reduced with the engine revving hard.

How often do we try shifting it back up a gear only for the vehicle to slow back down and struggle to pull again?

This is what it means to lack torque at mid-range engine revs. It is not a position you want to be in, especially considering that vans carry heavier loads than cars.

How To Use Torque & Horsepower To Calculate The Right Engine?

Vans tend to have a choice of several engine sizes with different horsepower and torque values. There are even cases when engines are of the same size but come with different power outputs and torque values. So which do you go for?

If you are going for a van that has a high payload (more carrying capacity), then consider the larger engine with the higher horsepower value. This engine will also have more torque and therefore perform more constantly and smoothly under heavier loads.
This choice is particularly recommended for hilly roads and motorway driving conditions! It is torque that lets you do the hard work, but it’s the horsepower that allows you to do the work quickly once the van is in motion.

If your business is centered around town driving where stop / start conditions are common (and lower speeds are the norm), then a less powerful engine would generally suffice.

You may find that you need to do a combination of town driving and hilly, motorway driving with heavy loads. In this case, an in-between engine size (if available) is likely the correct option for you. However, this would depend on which of the two you do more of!

If you still find yourself confused about which engine size will best suit your business requirements, then don’t hesitate to contact us or call us directly at 0800 20027 203923.

We would be more than happy to assist you and get you one step closer to acquiring your perfect van.