Humans are constantly building increasingly more powerful and high-speed objects to help us reach our lofty goals. And, even though there are a multitude of ways to quantify power—joules, horsepower, gigawatts foot-pounds, etc.—power is more than just what you see in the numbers. To a lot of people, power is an experience. It’s something you feel as a result of the way something performs. It’s the sense of mastery you get from being enabled to do things better or with more control than you ever could before. So, with that definition in mind, here’s a look at what we consider to be 12 of the most powerful machines on the planet.
12. Tesla Model S
Even though Tesla’s Model S has only been around for a few years, it has already evolved a lot more than most cars do in a decade. Making its debut as a speedy rear-wheel-drive electric, it now has dual motors and all-wheel drive that give it a blistering 2.8-second zero to 60 mph acceleration time. It’s even got a futuristic autopilot feature that enables the car to pretty much drive itself, although, when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle like this you probably won’t ever want to use it.
Not only is the Model S P90D the most powerful electric car, it’s the most powerful sedan on the market and one of the most powerful automobiles ever created.
11. Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
This road rocket redefines the meaning of North American muscle. It’s a rear-wheel drive monster powered by a 707 horsepower 6.2-liter Hemi V8. But, in its colossal ambitions, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is something new. Using a plain old fleet vehicle as the basis, when all was said and done, the Hellcat was achieving top speeds of over 200 mph and covering the quarter mile in 11.0 seconds flat. But its most impressive performance attribute would have to be its acceleration, which can go from zero to 100 mph in under 13 seconds. With speeds like that, excellent braking and suspension systems also needed to be included. The extreme horsepower is also the reason why the vehicle comes with two different sets of keys—a red one that can unleash the cars full power, and a black one that limits the Hellcat’s engine capabilities to 500 horsepower. Sorry hotel and restaurant valets, chances are you’re going to get handed the black key anytime one of these babies rolls up.
10. Kawasaki Ninja H2R
The Ninja H2 is a “supercharged supersport” class motorcycle in the Ninja sportbike series manufactured by Kawasaki Heavy Industries. It features a variable-speed centrifugal-type supercharger that can achieve increased horsepower with ram air. In this viral video a Kawasaki Ninja H2 is shown beating a Bugatti Veyron in a drag race. This is pretty remarkable because the H2 isn’t even the fastest Ninja bike (though it is the fastest street legal one). That title belongs to the H2R, a 200 mph production race bike that uses a gear-driven supercharger to help extract over 300 horsepower from the 998cc four-cylinder engine. As you can imagine, the bike isn’t cheap. At $50,000 it’s priced much more like a sports car than a motorcycle. But at least Kawasaki used real silver instead of silver paint for the body design so the value isn’t purely placed on the bike’s performance.
9. Bigfoot Monster Truck
Monster trucks might just look like normal trucks with massive wheels and suped up suspension systems, but once you get in one and see how it operates, you might think it has more in common with a jet plane. There’s a rocker switch to control the rear-wheel steering, a knob to get the fuel flowing, and a toggle to start the engine—a 9.4-liter V8 outfitted with an enormous supercharger. It doesn’t have any mufflers, but when it starts up, the downward pointing header sets on each side vent the fiery exhaust from an engine so loud you’d think it’s on the verge of exploding.
Sporting 66-inch tires and weighing in at six tons you wouldn’t expect Bigfoot to be all that fast, but with 1,730 horsepower under the hood, its actually quite quick. And the speed comes in pretty handy when you’re doing things like setting the world record for the monster truck long jump. Just like Bigfoot driver Dan Runte did in 2012 after clearing 214 feet.
8. BelAZ 75710 Dump Truck
Holding the record for the world’s largest capacity mining truck, the BelAZ 75710 dump truck was designed after long-standing BelAZ customers specifically requested a bigger truck. Through a combination of unique designs and engineering innovations, the company’s product development experts were able to incorporate the traditional BelAZ truck characteristics into a bigger hauler capable of carrying in excess of 450 metric tons. Understandably, the truck is a behemoth. It’s roughly the size as a tennis court and weighs in at 800,000 pounds without a load on its back. Once fully loaded, the truck weighs closer to 2,000,000 pounds. At that weight, the truck requires two 65-liter 16-cylinder diesel engines, each with 2,300 horsepower, so it’s not exactly the greenest hauler around. This aspect, in addition to the dualed tires, shallow bed and very heavy empty weight has led to concerns about the truck’s overall operating efficiency. Currently, there’s only one of these ultra-class hauler trucks in operation and it belongs to a Russian coal mining company.
7. Emma Mærsk (Container Ship)
When construction on the Emma Mærsk was completed in 2006, it became the largest container ship ever built, stretching over 1,300 feet. Officially, the ship is able to carry around 14,770 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU), which is roughly the same as 251,100 tons.
To transport all that weight the Emma Mærsk requires the most powerful engine in the world—the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C diesel. The engine itself is 89 feet long and 44 feet tall. It weighs in at a total of 2,300 tons, and, of that weight, 300 tons is attributed solely to the massive crank shaft which, once spinning at 102 revolutions per minute (RPM) gives the engine a maximum horsepower of 108,920.
With an engine that size the Emma Mærsk’s fuel costs are astronomical. Even when maximizing its economy it’s estimated that the engine consumes more than 39 barrels per hour and costs $34 a minute to operate.
6. Griffon Hoverwork BHT
Though it can’t carry nearly as much as either BelAZ 75710 or the Emma Mærsk, as a cargo vessel, the Griffon Hoverwork BHT Hovercraft has a distinct advantage in that it can glide over almost any terrain be it mud, ice, water, or land.
Using its exceedingly large fans and even larger skirt, the versatile vehicle can cruise around at 50 mph on a cushion of air trapped in between the hull and the terrain surface. Three fans fill, lift, and propel the 100-foot-long craft, which is powered by four engines capable of producing a maximum output of 1,200 horsepower.
5. Shockwave Jet Truck
Les Shockley is the appropriately named creator of the “Shockwave Jet Truck,” also known as the “Triple Jet Engine Monster.” Shockley built the truck in 1984 and has been demonstrating its awesome power at trucking events and military airshows every year since.
The four-ton truck is essentially three Pratt & Whitney J34-48 jet engines strapped on to a Peterbilt semi-truck, which gives it the power equivalent of 55 McLaren 650S Spiders. However, additional afterburners can double the Shockwave’s horsepower and thrust to give it six times the power of a typical jet plane engine. With those specifications the jet truck accelerates from zero to 300 mph in about 11 seconds and, with a maximum speed approaching 400 mph, it can cover a quarter mile in just under six seconds. At those speeds the driver is experiencing close to six times the force of gravity and needs to deploy a parachute braking system in order to slow the vehicle down.
Of course, jet engines aren’t particularly known for their fuel economy and Shockwave burns through almost 200 gallons of fuel for each of its crowd pleasing shows, which often involve it racing various airborne planes.
4. Universal Alloy’s Aluminum-Extrusion Press
Based out of Canton, Georgia, Universal Alloy is a leading supplier of structural components to airplane makers and defense manufacturers. Much of the company’s success in the industry can be attributed to a single marvelous machine—a 75-year-old, 9,000 ton aluminum-extrusion press.
The press, which is the most powerful of its kind in the world, is able to push a solid block of aluminium through a die to form a strong, seamless structure. Making 100-foot struts or 747 wing sockets requires a tremendous amount of force to bend and shape the metal. Universal Alloy’s press is capable of generating 16,200 tons of pressure that can make a 5,000-pound bathtub-sized bar of solid aluminium look as though it were made out of toothpaste. Basically, the machine handles metal like a gorilla handling Play-Doh.
All that power certainly isn’t compact though. The press is 300 feet long and transporting it to Georgia from its original home in Illinois was a task that required the use of 160 semi-trucks and seven railcars.
3. The Navy’s Electromagnetic Railgun
Using a form of electromagnetic energy known as the Lorentz force, The U.S. Navy’s electromagnetic railgun is capable of firing a 23-pound projectile at speeds exceeding Mach 7. According to the Navy’s chief engineer, Rear Admiral Bryant Fuller, the electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy. It will allow the maritime force to effectively counter a wide range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping American ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons. The railgun requires no explosives and only takes one man to load and fire. In addition, it has a maximum range of over 100 miles and it’s estimated that the cost to fire the weapon is roughy 60 times less expensive than traditional military artillery. In various tests, the 18-inch long projectiles it fires were able to penetrate through three walls of reinforced concrete as well as six plates of solid steel.
2. ATHENA Laser
Finally, after years of exposure in big budget sci-fi action movies, it looks like laser weapons are finally becoming a reality. After successfully disabling the engine of a small truck in a field test back in March 2015, Lockheed Martin’s ATHENA—short for Advanced Test High Energy Asset—demonstrated the rapidly evolving precision capability of lasers to protect military forces and critical infrastructure.
The power is derived from a technique called spectral beam combining in which multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that provides greater efficiency and lethality than multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems. This design actually makes the laser more efficient and less likely to malfunction since the failure of one of the small lasers won’t disable the beam. According to Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s chief technology officer, fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems. “We are investing in every component of the system—from the optics and beam control to the laser itself—to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”
Despite exhibiting such power, ATHENA still only requires one operator—so perhaps personal, hand-held laser weapons could be the next step.
1. Large Hadron Collider
Straddling the French-Swiss border, the $9 billion CERN Large Hadron Collider complex is a 17-mile long circular circuit that’s buried at a depth of up to 575 feet so that the Earth’s crust can shield experiments from effects of surface level radiation. The LHC is composed of 9,600 super magnets (magnets that are 100,000 times more powerful than the gravitational pull of the Earth) that keep protons in line when they’re fired around a circular track at velocities approaching the speed of light. When particles collide at such insane speeds, a lot of heat is produced. In fact, when two beams of heavy ions collide, the heat created from the impact is 100,00 times hotter than the center of the Sun—which is probably another good reason why the scientists decided to build it underground.