Horsepower kW Value Difference between Continents

Published on Mar 12 2024

Horsepower kW value in cars is different across countries and continents. The difference is not much but it is notable and it is caused by the different way of calculating horsepower. Some countries use pounds and feet and some kilograms and meters. This is the reason of slightly different watt amount on metric horsepower and on mechanical horsepower (or imperial horsepower).

Metric horsepower is approximately 735.5 watts

  • In use in Europe and Asia
  • Canada use both metric and mechanical horsepower
  • Africa and Latin America use both metric and mechanical horsepower

Mechanical horsepower (or imperial horsepower) is approximately 745.7 watts

  • In use in the United States
  • In use in Great Britain

Horsepower Ratings and Terminology Across Continents

Horsepower, a fundamental unit of power, serves as a vital metric in the realm of engines and machinery. While universally recognized, the nuances in horsepower ratings and nomenclature across different continents reflect unique historical, technological, and cultural contexts. This article explores the horsepower landscape across the globe, focusing on kilowatt (kW) values and the terminology employed in key regions.

Metric Horsepower (PS - Pferdestärke):

  • Measurement: 75 kilograms raised one meter in one second.
  • Equivalent: Approximately 735.5 watts.
  • System: Metric system (commonly used in continental Europe and Asia).

Mechanical horsepower (or imperial horsepower):

  • Measurement: 550 foot-pounds of work per second.
  • Approximate Metric Equivalent: 745.7 watts or 0.7457 kilowatts.
  • System: Imperial system (commonly used in the United Kingdom and United States).

Continental Europe:

In Continental Europe, the transition from traditional to metric units is evident and horsepower used is the metric horsepower. The metric system's influence is pronounced, with kilowatts gaining prominence alongside traditional horsepower units. Germany, a leader in the automotive industry, commonly uses "Pferdestärke" (PS) for horsepower, with kilowatts widely recognized. This dual usage showcases the region's move toward metric standards while honoring historical terminology.

Most countries nowadays use the SI unit watt for measurement of power. With the implementation of the EU Directive 80/181/EEC on 1 January 2010, the use of horsepower in the EU is permitted only as an additional unit (Official Journal of the European Union, 2009).

Great Britain:

As the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Great Britain exhibits a unique blend of mechanical horsepower (or imperial horsepower) and metric horsepower measurements. British manufacturers often intermix metric horsepower and mechanical horsepower (or imperial horsepower) depending on the origin of the engine in question. Kilowatts have also found a place in technical documentation, illustrating the region's embrace of global standardization within its historical context.

North America:

In North America, a dual-system approach prevails, with both mechanical horsepower (or imperial horsepower) and kilowatts used in various contexts. While the traditional term "horsepower" remains prevalent, the automotive and manufacturing industries increasingly cite kilowatt ratings. This coexistence mirrors the region's historical ties and showcases its adaptation to contemporary global standards.


Asia, a diverse continent with significant industrial and technological advancements, has witnessed a shift toward metric horsepower measurements. Countries like Japan use kilowatts extensively in automotive and manufacturing sectors. This reflects Asia's integration into the global marketplace and its adoption of standardized units for power measurement.

Latin America:

Latin America, with its varied landscapes and economic structures, exhibits a mix of horsepower measurement systems. While traditional horsepower units are still widely used, especially in agricultural settings, kilowatts are gaining ground, particularly in urban and industrial areas. This duality underscores the region's ongoing transition and adaptation to global standards.


In Africa, where diverse economies coexist, traditional horsepower units persist in many regions, reflecting the importance of agriculture and manual labor. However, urban centers and emerging industries increasingly utilize kilowatts, reflecting a broader global trend towards standardized power measurements.


The kilowatt serves as a standard unit for quantifying the output power of engines, as well as the power generated by electric motors, tools, machines, and heaters.

One kilowatt is approximately equal to 1.34 mechanical horsepower and in metric system one kilowatt equals to 1.36 metric horsepower. For instance, a small electric heater equipped with a single heating element typically consumes 1 kilowatt in the United States. Just to clarify, 1000 W equals to 1kW.

On a clear day at midday near the equator, a surface area of 1 square meter on Earth receives an estimated one kilowatt of sunlight from the Sun (Papadopoulou, 2011). This metric underscores the versatile nature of the kilowatt, extending its relevance from the realms of household energy consumption to solar energy exposure on our planet.

The watt (symbol: W) is the SI unit for power, representing 1 joule per second or 1 kg x m² x s⁻³. It measures the rate of energy transfer and is named after James Watt (1736–1819), a Scottish inventor pivotal to the Industrial Revolution. Watt enhanced the Newcomen engine with his steam engine in 1776, revolutionizing energy production.


The global horsepower landscape is a tapestry woven with historical legacies, technological advancements, and evolving cultural preferences. Kilowatts are emerging as a common language in the measurement of power, fostering global standardization.

Metric horsepower is approximately 735.5 watts.
Mechanical horsepower (or imperial horsepower) is about 745.7 watts.
1000 W equals to 1kW.
One kilowatt is approximately equivalent to 1.36 metric horsepower.
One kilowatt is approximately equivalent to 1.34 mechanical horsepower.


Papadopoulou, E., 2011. Photovoltaic Industrial Systems: An Environmental Approach, Springer 2011 ISBN 3642163017, p.153


Official Journal of the European Union. 2009. [online] DIRECTIVE 2009/3/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 11 March 2009. Available from: [Accessed 11 Feb 2024]