Friday, June 13, 2008

Flying Or Prius -- Which Uses Less Fuel?

Wayne is a nuclear engineer and the kind of guy who runs the numbers. He says for longer trips -- flying on a full airliner is more efficient than driving. Matter of fact, it is not even close.

Let's run the numbers on the latest model of the Boeing 737-900. The plane burns about 2.4 gallons per nautical mile, and a trip from New York to Los Angeles, California, is about 2,100 nautical miles. So that means it would take about 5,000 gallons of Jet-A fuel to fly coast to coast.

Now let's assume it is configured to hold about 175 people -- and the plane is full -- aren't they all these days? That comes out to 28.5 gallons per passenger. Even if the passengers were all Toyota Prius owners (which get 50 mpg), 28.5 gallons would only get them 1,400 miles down the road. So if the choice is flying -- or driving solo, the airliner wins by a huge margin.

But if you fill the Prius with people (ed- yea, that'd be a tight fit on a long trip, you might pray for that coach seat!)-- it becomes competitive with flying. The driving distance between New York and Los Angeles is 2,700 statute miles. That amounts to 54 gallons of gas in the fuel-sipping hybrid. With four people in the car, the Prius wins -- with each passenger using only 13.5 gallons.

As you can plainly see, if you drive a plain old gas-engine car the airliner is more likely to be a more efficient way to travel. If your car gets, say 25 mpg, it will burn 108 gallons to get you to the "Left Coast." With four people inside, your per capita use of fuel is 27 gallons -- or virtually tied with the full 737.

So if you have to be somewhere, and you don't want to waste a lot of gas and make a big carbon footprint, the airlines are probably the way to go.

Whoa, that's now what we have been led to believe!


CNN --Behind the Scenes: 'Hypermilers' test limits of fuel conservation

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