Monday, 17 December 2007

Number crunching

The British digital television channel “Dave” shows, amongst other things, repeats of the BBC’s motoring program Top Gear. I was watching one of the repeats today, the episode where a Bugatti Veyron and a Cesna light aircraft race across Europe. The Veyron has a power gauge to show how much power is being used at any given point. The presenter observed that at 80mph the Veyron needed only 50 of the 1,000 or so bhp to move it along.

It made me think; 50bhp isn’t a huge amount of power but is it more or less than ordinary cars need for a typical motorway cruise?

Exact figures are hard to come by but I looked at a selection of cars with about 50bhp and also with top speed around 80mph. The Chevrolet Matiz has 50bhp and can do 90mph; the Fiat Panda 1.1 has 54bhp and can do 93mph. You have to go back many years to find cars with top speeds in the 80mph range. In 1966 a Ford Cortina needed 63bhp to do 82mph; by 1970 a Hillman Avenger could manage 81mph on 53bhp although the Citroen GS looks like it was ahead of its time by doing 93mph on 55bhp.

I’m not sure if this proves anything except that it takes less power than you’d think to drive at motorway speed.

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