Monday, December 12, 2016

Ahh... driving

What could be more normal than getting in the car and driving somewhere?

Driving is such a normalised activity. Almost everyone I know does it -- people that don't drive are a bit strange, and their options are greatly constrained.

I love a road trip. When we moved from Brisbane back (home) to Adelaide, we took 5 weeks to drive home along the coast, which we followed from Brisbane to Melbourne. It was a fantastic trip.

It's so easy to get in the car and watch the world rush by. It's also easy to forget just how much energy is being used in that process. Here's an example:
We recently went to visit Monarto Zoo which is (the only?) open range zoo in Australia and is about 65 km from my house. It's an easy drive, about 40 minutes up the freeway. Google Maps estimates it as a 4 hour bicycle trip (I'm presuming that is without kids)
So the round trip is about 130 km. Our car uses about 8 L per 100km on the open road, so that works out to about 10.4 L of petrol, which is about 100 kWh (each liter of petrol has about 10 kWh of energy). For us, that is a month's worth of energy (as consumed by our house of four people) used in 1h:20m of travel.

Faced with these numbers, it is clear just how much of a problem driving is for our carbon emissions, and how easy we make our lives elsewhere if we can just drive less. If we want to avoid damaging climate change, we simply need to drive less, and this will make our other goals (eg. renewable electricity, reduced consumption, more sustainable agriculture, etc) that much more achievable.


  1. Hi Angus,

    Oh yeah it is a huge amount of energy. I didn't know that 1 litre of petrol contained 10kW of energy. Yup, the electric cars use between 170Wh and 250Wh per Kilometre. I couldn't power one of those, but I do know a guy in Qld who has a Nissan Leaf and an off grid system. But it is a big system.

  2. Hi Angus, like Chris I had not connected the dots between fuel in cars and general energy use. It's all the same thing I guess. I am currently working on getting both my driving and my electricity use way down, and your post is timely! My household of three uses about four times the electricity of your household of four, so I hope you have some good advice for us!

  3. Hi Chris and Jo,
    Sorry for the late reply -- I've been on a camping road trip for the last 3 weeks (!)

    Chris, have you seen this? It's a very cheap, low power electric vehicle:

    My understanding is that about 50% of car trips are under 5 km, so ebikes are not even needed. This wouldn't apply for rural driving though!

    Cheers, Angus

  4. Angus, hope you don't mind, I quoted your post here in my latest post, because that 10kWh per litre of petrol statistic is still blowing my mind! Hope you had a great time camping:)

  5. Hi Jo,

    Definitely! I quoted it (without attribution this time) from the excellent "Sustianable Energy without the hot air" by David McKay, which is freely available online and I highly recommend.

    Cheers, Angus


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