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Weight-to-power ratio (WTPR) usually applies to vehicles. It can be expressed as the weight of the vehicle in kilograms divided by the vehicle's power in kW. (The inverse of WTPR, power-to-weight ratio, is conventionally used for engines rather than for vehicles.) The maximum acceleration available to any vehicle depends directly on its WTPR, halving the WTPR doubles the potential acceleration.
An electric-assisted bicycle motor might develop 200 Watts (0.2kW).
A typical, smallish, motor vehicle of the early twenty-first century might
weigh a little over a tonne, say 1050kg, and have an
engine capable of developing 70 kilowatts; 350 times the power of the
The bicycle and passenger might weigh 100kg, the car and passenger 1120kg.
So the WTPR of the bicycle, in kg/kW, is 500 (100/0.2), while that of the
car is 16 (1120/70).
The bicycle rider could add another 0.2kW, decreasing the WTPR to
So, some people find a WTPR of 250 or even 500 acceptable, while others (most of us?) demand something nearer 16. Why? Are we really in such a rush that we must have high levels of acceleration available to us? Would it really matter if it took an extra 5 seconds to accelerate to 60km/hr?
I need hardly say that the greenhouse gasses produced by recharging the electric bicycle would be tiny compared to those produced by burning the fossil fuel that powers the car, with 500 times the power.
Why can we not buy cars with WTPRs closer to the electric bicycle? I believe the fact that they are not available indicates that we are not yet taking climate change/greenhouse seriously.
The responsiveness of a vehicle can be improved by either increasing its power or by decreasing its weight (either way, by decreasing its WTPR). Why, then, are we not seeing more ultra-light vehicles on the roads; they could both provide for peoples' desire for relatively high rates of acceleration and produce less pollution.