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Engine vs. Motor

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by graham, Aug 13, 2008.

  1. graham

    graham Active Member

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    From this article linked in a different thread:

    News & Culture in Silicon Valley | Silicon Valley News Notes

    I have seen similar statements from other Tesla employees, and I understand trying to differentiate the Tesla with the terminology. However, does anyone else think that correcting everyone on this term will be a losing battle? In the vernacular, 'engine' is the thing that makes your car go, no matter it's power source.

    Of course this could just be a 'tin' foil hat conspiracy that occurs to me while driving my 'steam'roller and 'dial'ing my phone using a pencil 'lead'
     
  2. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

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    In the UK, engine always refers to an ICE or gas turbine, whereas motors almost always run on electricity. You would never hear anyone say "electric engine", but you might occasionally hear the phrase "petrol/diesel motor".

    But I suspect that wasn't always the case - hence a motorbike (which has an engine...) and more rarely these days, motorcar (the latter sounds quaint and almost legalese).
     
  3. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    I had been 'correcting' people on that one for a quite a while on the forums. I even tried to coin the term 'eMotor' to make it clearer.

    Then there is the old 'gas pedal' / 'throttle' nomenclature issue as well.

    Also, 'quick' vs 'fast'. When someone says a Tesla is 'faster' than a Ferrari I wince because to me 'fast' is top speed, and 'quick' is 0-60 acceleration.
     
  4. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    Or as we say, Motorcycle


    Never heard the term Enginecycle.
     
  5. Joseph

    Joseph Member

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    Terminology (and grammar) is important. It's a motor, not an engine.
     
  6. philweicker

    philweicker New Member

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    Engine vs Motor

    An engine is necessarily a thermal device. An electric engine would potentially exist, but it would have to do something like heat water electrically to produce steam. EVs have motors, not engines.
     
  7. dpeilow

    dpeilow Moderator

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    Not necessarily - there is the example of the Difference Engine (early mechanical "computer").

    Engine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

     
  8. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    #8 doug, Aug 14, 2008
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2008
    Yes terminology is important. As a scientist, I know that precision in communication is crucial. I also used to be a grammar Nazi. But there is often a difference between the technical and common definition of a word. And even between different technical fields, the same word can have different definitions. More and more, I've come to realize that language is fluid and there isn't really much of a point arguing these sorts of semantics.

    If you went back to the original meaning of the word engine (as my couple years of high school Latin can attest), it would be fine for an electric motor. These days (especially in the context of transportation) the word engine implies some sort of combustion engine, so certain people like to make the distinction. But to go up to a lay person and say an electric car has no engine is just being unnecessarily confusing. Fortunately, the meaning of the word motor is more general* and more obvious. A motor is something that imparts motion. In space flight, often the individual rocket engines are referred to as motors. (This can confuse some people since, for them, the word implies something spinning.) Clearly the word motor is ok to use when referring to an ICE. So I say if someone insists that you use the word motor instead of engine, that person should really specify that it's an electric motor (e-motor is a good term to promote), since motor driven could mean it's a rocket!! :wink:


    I think it makes sense to correct the terms "gas pedal" and "throttle" since we do want to emphasize that an electric car is not using liquid fuel, and we have the word "accelerator" which works perfectly fine. ("I'm sure the manual will indicate which lever is the velocitator and which is the deceleratrix."- M. Burns)

    "Gas pedal" may persist, though, since terms coined for a particular function within a type of technology can often stick around for the analogous function when the technology changes.
    And oddly enough, "throttle" may eventually be ok in this context by its own right. Technically a throttle is something that regulates the flow of a fluid (liquid or gas), but the trend in the vernacular is that it's being generalized to mean regulate anything. This might be because some people can't tell that the sentence, "Throttle back your enthusiasm." contains a metaphor. Ironically, this brings "throttle" closer to it's earlier, pre-technical meaning of to suppress or choke.

    [Edit: Just remembered this thread, http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/technical-discussion/380-torque-pedal.html, where I made somewhat similar comments. Even used the same Simpsons quote.]

    Quick and fast essentially mean the same thing, so not much sense making that distinction. However, to say "A Tesla is faster (or quicker for that mater) than a Ferrari." is misleading marketing spin. To be accurate they should just specify "shorter 0-60 time" or whatever metric they're using.


    * "general" is one of those words that has a different meaning for scientists than it does for laymen.
     
  9. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    This explains a lot.

    ***************

    I am still lobbying for "Torque pedal"


    ***************


    Martin wrote on his blog,
    " Lots of juice left, so I got on the freeway at full throttle. (We really need a new list of expressions for this!)"

    As Doug has pointed out this still linguistically works. (even if this sentence does not!:)



    I have jotted down a few new ideas but nothing I love yet.
     
  10. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Perhaps by strict dictionary definition, but in common usage I find that quick is typically about acceleration, and fast is about top speed. Because enough people think about them that way it is probably good practice to make sure you don't say "Tesla is faster than other Supercars"

    Some examples:
    What is the difference between being quick and fast? - Yahoo! Answers
    Volkswagen Jetta 2005 and earlier - CarSpace Automotive Forums
    Quick vs. Fast Under311
     
  11. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

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    #11 doug, Aug 14, 2008
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2008
    Well again it's semantics. Quick and fast are non-technical terms and (sadly) most people don't understand the distinction between acceleration and velocity vectors. In the context of cars, quick and fast may attain different and specific definitions (in which case they actually become technical terms). But I'd argue that it's not yet so well defined. As is good practice, one should consider the audience when communicating. So to say, "The Tesla Roadster is quicker than a Ferrari." with out further clarification to the general public is still misleading, in my opinion.
     
  12. GSP

    GSP Member

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    I have to agree completely with Doug's well thought out comments. However.......

    1) Machines that convert electrical energy to kinetic energy are MOTORS.

    2) All ICE's are Internal Combustion ENGINES

    3) Fast is a relative VELOCITY

    4) If you do any drag racing at all, Quick is relative ACCELERATION, specifically for the quarter mile.

    Anything else is just not proper (American) English! :)

    GSP
     
  13. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    Yeah, remember this?
     
  14. Brent

    Brent Member

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    This article seems to have a detailed look at the issue.

    All this said, I guess if we need to distinguish between electric and combustion propulsion, motor and engine are good enough.
     
  15. exLeaf

    exLeaf Member

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    Very interesting
    source
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine
     
  16. RyanT

    RyanT Member

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    Most people say motor for electric as in Electric Motor and use engine for ICE (Internal Combustion Engine).
     
  17. JRP3

    JRP3 Hyperactive Member

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    Indeed, no one says their vacuum cleaner, hard drive, fan, etc., has an "engine" in them. They are electric motors.
     
  18. tga

    tga Active Member

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    And if you read further:

    "However, technically, the two words have different meanings. An engine is a device that burns or otherwise consumes fuel, changing its chemical composition, whereas a motor is a device driven by electricity, which does not change the chemical composition of its energy source."

    Gas = engine
    Electricity = motor
     
  19. qwertzy

    qwertzy Member

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    An engine changes the chemical composition of its fuel to the mechanical energy, and the electric motor does not. The only chemical reaction is in the battery, but the electricity that drives the electric motor does not change at all. But the fuel mixture that goes into the engine and combusts does.
     

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