Aaron DiManna
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How Many Humans Would it Take to Power a Corvette?

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2020 Corvette's V8 Engine, which can generate up to 495 horsepower, or the power of 33 horses and roughly 495 humans.
Photo: Chevrolet

While researching topics for The News Wheel, I’ll occasionally stumble across an idea that’s ultimately frivolous but which I find inexplicably fascinating. One such thought recently popped into my mind and resulted in me revisiting physics for the first time since college and needing to confront some challenging concepts. Of course, I’m talking about figuring out how many humans it would take to match the power output of the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.


The pinnacle of power: The Revolutionary 2020 Corvette Stingray


How is horsepower calculated?

If you’re anything like me, you’ve forgotten most of the physics you learned in school. However, it’s vital to remember a few key terms if we’re going to figure out how many people you’d need to cram into a Corvette’s engine to equal its strength. These definitions come courtesy of Power Test.

  • Force: If you pick up a 10-pound weight, you’re applying 10 pounds of force to that object.
  • Work: Work is the result of multiplying force by how far you move that object in any direction. So, if you carry a 10-pound item 5 feet, you’ve completed 50 lb-ft of work.
  • Power: Power is the amount of work that can be accomplished in a set period of time.

With this understanding, horsepower is defined as the ability to move (or displace) 1 pound 33,000 feet in one minute. Counterintuitively, a single horse can theoretically put out up to 15 horsepower. That means you’d technically only need 33 horses to hit the Corvette’s maximum of 495 horsepower.

The “humanpower” of a Corvette

The University of Calgary’s Energy Education website claims that “the maximum output of a human is a bit more than a single horsepower,” but that high-level athletes can generate “around 1.2 horsepower for around 15 seconds, and just under 0.9 horsepower for a minute.”

That being the case, the calculation turned out to be insanely simple. If one human can put out roughly 1 horsepower, then it would take about 495 physically fit individuals to match the 2020 Corvette Stingray.

Let’s be thankful for engines

We have to assume that humans would tire out much more quickly than either a horse or a 6.2-liter V8 engine, and they may not even be able to achieve 1 horsepower apiece after 60 seconds. In order to keep the vehicle running, there’d need to be a mechanism for continually swapping out the used up humans on the fly, which is a pretty grizzly visual.

Additionally, research conducted by economist Kip Viscusi suggests that the statistical monetary value of a human life is roughly $10 million, which means a single people-powered Corvette engine would cost just shy of $5 billion.

Or we can all be thankful that brilliant engineers designed and developed machines that can do the work for us. I know that’s my plan.


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