I recently drove a crew of 6 people to Portland, and several hours east of it, and back again. The trip in total was about 1350km, and even with six people and all their luggage on board, and a ridiculously un-aerodynamic roof bin, the car averaged 9.4L/100km. The total cost of fuel was such that the fare was only 30 dollars per person – leagues below what bus fare would cost. Furthermore, we were able to drive exactly to our destinations, and were mobile in the cities we visited (and yes, that city fuel economy is included in the overall figure).
But some people will be unimpressed by the fact driving can still be an exceedingly cheap and convenient way of traveling. Some will not even be convinced by the inherent joy of road trips, the songs heard and made up along the way. No, there are some who are purely concerned with how much the trip poisons the planet. So, I’ll consider that now.
First, the car recently passed air care, and produces about the same carbon monoxide and NOx as it did when new. This is because the car has always been in proper tune, and therefore the catalytic converter has never had a chance to wear out. However, these may be beside the point with the advent of global warming – what we are really concerned with is carbon.
In a sense, I have already given the carbon production – it is exactly the same as the fuel economy (9.4L/100km). However, people seem to like to express it as a static figure. Ok, 126 liters of fuel. No, not good enough? I see, although that is directly proportional to the carbon dioxide produced, it is not actually the mass of the carbon dioxide in tonnes. Alright, multiply by 2.32 and we get 292kg of carbon, or, 0.292 tonnes. Further, divide by six people and we get 48.7kg each. Let’s compare this with other travel options.
If we’d traveled by inter-city bus, according to http://www.treecanada.ca , the 1350km trip would have produced 76kg each, or 456kg between the six of us. Rail travel (and there is an Amtrack line to Portland from Vancouver) is worse, 140kg each – 840kg total (almost three times as much!). In fact, to equal the train, I would have had to average only 27L/100km. That’s 8 miles per gallon. Or, put otherwise, to beat the train I would have needed only 2 people in the car, not 6.
So, take that you people who think the personal automobile can’t be part of a sustainable future. If you’re right, then neither can buses or trains.