Wasteful Movement

The transportation sector wastes a full 75%, making it just 25% energy-efficient. Part of this waste is due to the fact that cars are an inherently inefficient way to move people around, since much of the energy must go into moving the massive car and not simply the person.

Read the article.

9 replies
  1. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    In a gasoline-powered car, only 15% of the energy in the gasoline goes to moving the vehicle. The rest is wasted as heat, friction, idling, and other minor functions. Only 1% of the energy moves the passenger.

    Some years ago a guy in San Jose, CA put an hour meter on his car’s engine so he could learn his true miles per hour. After a year of normal driving he found his average speed to be 17 mph.

    Add in all the hours you spend working to pay for the ownership and operation of an automobile and it often ends up being slower than a bicycle.

    • Eli Damon
      Eli Damon says:

      A calculation from the ’70s estimated the effective average speed of a car to be about 1mph, about 1/3 of walking speed (David Ehrenfeld, The Arrogance of Humanism).

  2. Eli Damon
    Eli Damon says:

    The diagram is fantastic, and it is good to hear the point about the absurd inefficiency of a vehicle that weighs several times as much as its load. Of course, the Physorg article, while correctly pointing the gross waste of suburban development, still falls for the idea that bicycle transportation is impractical in the suburbs.

    • Laura M
      Laura M says:

      That’s disappointing that the bike is still considered by some to be impractical in the suburbs. My thought is that the suburbs are in many ways ideal for cycling as transport, particularly the short trips to schools, shopping and retail that so many make on weekends, evenings, etc. Walking certainly isn’t that practical. But the long blocks, access management, medians and wide roads would be very conducive to cycling. Just wish we could get the average speed of the cars down a bit more.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        Agreed. Utility trip distances are definitely bikeable. The problem is partly mindset and largely lack of connectivity of pleasant streets with the only alternative being high speeds and territorial behavior on the arterials.

      • NE2
        NE2 says:

        Here there are a fair number of residents who walk several miles in the morning for exercise. But unless they’re going to the school, park, or one of several religious buildings, they can’t use this distance to get somewhere useful. There need to be some zoning changes, but residents will fight for their property values, just as they fought the park.

  3. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Eli, I don’t have an answer to your last question, but could perhaps offer additional perspective to the question. The question is one that has been batted about on many of the electric vehicle forums in which I participate.

    When one considers the use of fossil fuels for any purpose, one must also consider the refining and transport. Fossil fuels for electrical generation is much less refined than that of fuels for transportation. Fuel used for transportation also requires more fuel to be transported. Much electricity is not generated by fossil fuel, so there’s an additional benefit in the lack of need to be transported.

    I won’t pretend to know much about all aspects of this subject, since I can’t remember half of what I read, but it’s miserable overall when one compares energy use and consumption in this manner.

    Electric vehicle come out far better than infernal combustion vehicles, but human power trumps the lot.

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