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What's the difference between an engine, motor and generator?

Discussion in 'The Coffee Shop ~ Chit Chat' started by ChevyFan, Oct 28, 2013.

  1. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan Administrator Staff Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    I've been thinking about how we use language so informally these days. It's like the difference between a cell and a battery. Technically, when multiple cells are put together, it's a battery of cells. The term "battery" refers to the collection ... like a missile battery.

    Likewise, many people use the terms motor, engine and even generator as synonyms. But they're not quite the same. I've taken the following from a few different sources.

    A motor is a device that changes electrical energy into mechanical energy, while an engine is a device, which converts chemical energy or heat energy into mechanical energy.

    Therefore, motors are electric, while engines are powered by pressure or combustion. Your typical gasoline engine has an electrical starter motor.

    Generators are devices that convert chemical energy into electrical energy. My parents fleetwood rv has a diesel generator to run the AC while they are off the grid.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  2. JTWard

    JTWard Member 1 Year Gold Member 100 Posts

    Well the English language has 350.000 words in it, but on average, we only use about 10.000 in our entire lives ? This is why it's so hard for other of different ethnic backgrounds to learn it.
  3. the phantom

    the phantom Active Member 2 Years ROTM Winner Gold Member 1000 Posts

    Ive also had thought on this also... I work with a guy that is from southern Pennsylvania and some of his terms are kind of funny to me being from NY. some examples are:

    The can of paint is all. (I say the can of paint is all gone)
    Move the truck front. (I say move the truck forward)
    Let that truck there. (I say leave that truck there)

    I also believe that our trucks have an Engine not a Motor
    I try to always refer to an engine as running on fuel and a motor is electrical. ex. You dont call a starter motor a starter engine. although many people say the motor in my truck is blown not refering to the starter.

    I think a lot of our terminology has to do with where we grew up. Definitely interesting how people use words differently but mean the same thing and sometimes so much variance that they may even be hard to understand what their trying to say.
  4. Crawdaddy

    Crawdaddy Epic Member Staff Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts Platinum Contributor

    I agree that a motor is an electrical device that turns electricity into motion and an engine turns a chemical reaction into motion. But, I will never call a motor mount an engine mount, because no one would know what I'm talking about.

    However, the word generator could refer to an assembly of an engine and what boils down to a motor run in reverse or it could refer to simply the motor that runs in reverse to generate power like in older cars before the day of the alternator.

    Semantics and language are fun...
  5. poncho62

    poncho62 Member 100 Posts

    While I generally agree with the motor-engine definitions......Why then is the company called General Motors?
  6. JTWard

    JTWard Member 1 Year Gold Member 100 Posts

    Word Wisdom ?

    A Lot of Folks . . . always tend to use 30 words when only 3 are needed. :lol:
  7. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan Administrator Staff Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    Hahaha. Never thought about that.
  8. marksoldtowne

    marksoldtowne Member 1 Year

    According to my opinion,,
    Motor is a that device which changes electrical energy into mechanical energy,but engine is a that device, which converts chemical energy and heat energy into mechanical energy and gives some electrical energy as well. and generator generates power by converting the chemical energy as well.
  9. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan Administrator Staff Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    Really? That's an interesting factoid.
  10. ChevyFan

    ChevyFan Administrator Staff Member 5+ Years 5000 Posts

    Technically ... the engine turns the serpentine belt ... which turns the alternator ... which makes electrical energy. So the mechanical energy is turned into electrical energy with the alternator.

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