Monday, March 02, 2009

Most Energy-Efficient Transport?

What is the most energy-efficient form of human transportation?

Would you believe me if I said bicycling?

In terms of calories expended over any distance traveled, yes, it turns out that riding a bicycle is as good as it gets.

Of all the common modes of transport, taking a bus is second best. Walking and taking a train, Amtrak, come in third and fourth. Flying and riding a motorcycle come in a distant fifth and sixth.

Riding your bicycle 350 miles at 15 mph -- as has been calculated and tabulated for you by the fine folks at Good Magazine -- requires the equivalent of 16 Whoppers with cheese, or 12,300 calories of energy. Plus, your health will improve dramatically. Never mind that it'll take you 23 hours and 20 minutes to get there. You're not in that big of a hurry, are you?

How about those other modes of travel? Well... walking takes three times as many Whoppers with cheese as bicycling, 36,960 calories, and over four times as much time -- 100 hours!

Please, you say. I'm a civilized human being. Give me motorized transport.

To start, you need to know that one gallon of gasoline contains 31,000 calories. So that bus ride requires about 36,000 calories and 5:50 to get you 350 miles. Not bad at all. Amtrak requires 70,000 calories of energy and 4:22 of time. Still not too bad. Your average sedan? A whopping 403,000 calories and 5:50! Well then, you smile back, what about the new hybrid technology? Nope, 248,000 calories and 5:50.

Finally, trust me when I say: Don't even ask about that SUV in your driveway...

If we EVER hope to cut down on our dependence on fossil fuels, we'll either need to INVENT/DISCOVER another fuel source as packed with caloric goodness as long-chain hydrocarbons... or re-learn to ride our bikes, be a bit more patient, and learn to love Whoppers!


Blogger WheelDancer said...

Very interesting and right in line with a post I just put up (and linked back to this post.) Turns out that Popular Science just did an interesting article about transportation efficiency based on human power.

Check it out:

Solving The Wrong Problem

12:04 PM, March 02, 2009  

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