greener transport league table

When I set out to compare the greenhouse gas emissions of train, bus, car and plane I hadn’t expected to find that some commonly seen big cars are even worse than flying.  Overall, though, train wins hands down for powered transport.  Here’s the greener transport league table.

  • Foot

    zero carbon emissions and great for the health and happiness too

  • Bike

    zero carbon emissions and gets you fit

  • Train

    at 40 grams of CO2 per passenger mile this is the best of the powered transports

  • Coach

    at 80g CO2 per passenger mile intercity coach is not as good as a train, but usually cheaper and better than all but a fully occupied car, and creates less congestion.

  • City bus

    170g CO2 per passenger mile. All that stopping and starting means it's more polluting than a long distance bus, but still less polluting than solo car use, and less congestion, and no parking spaces needed.

  • new small car

    220g CO2 per mile. More than 5 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Better with more passengers. Better per mile on longer journeys.

  • medium hybrid car

    260g CO2 per mile. More than 6 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Better with more passengers. Better per mile on longer journeys. Surprisingly little difference from a non-hybrid of same size.

  • new medium car

    280g CO2 per mile. 7 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Better with more passengers. Better per mile on longer journeys.

  • new large car

    320g CO2 per mile. 8 times worse than a train for single occupancy. Still twice as polluting as a train even with 4 passengers.

  • long haul flight

    340g CO2 per passenger mile in economy class. Long haul is less polluting per mile than short haul or domestic because the take off and landing use so much fuel, but long haul flights are always... long! So lots of pollution. Business and first class worse because they carry fewer people for the same fuel use.

  • Porsche 911

    405g CO2 per mile. 10 times worse than train. Worse than long haul and almost as bad as short haul flight. Probably no worse than business class... hmmmm

  • short haul flight

    415g CO2 per passenger mile. 10 times worse than train. European train travel wins hands down!

  • Range Rover

    500g CO2 per mile. More than 12 times worse than train. Almost as bad as all forms of flying.

  • Domestic flight

    505g CO2 per mile. More than 12 times worse than train. Worst way of getting from Bristol to Edinburgh other than taking the Porsche Cayenne.

  • Ferrari 488

    590g CO2 per mile. 15 times worse than train. More polluting than everything except Porsche Cayenne.

  • Porsche Cayenne

    590g CO2 per mile. 15 times worse than train. Probably better than helicopter for the school run, but I've not checked.

It’s worth noting that the car figures above are based on an “average” driver.  Whatever car you currently have you can do a lot better than average by driving greener – acceerate and brake gently and stick to the speed limits.

I was surprised that the hybrid car doesn’t come out that much better than a similar sized petrol engine, and I was shocked by just how much CO2 these sports cars and monster SUVs emit.

One person in a Porche 911 is worse than a short haul flight, in a Range Rover is worse than a domestic flight, and in the Porche Cayenne and Ferrari 488 are worse than flying all together. I look forward to the time when we show off our affluence by driving the most beautiful zero emissions vehicles, or maybe walking in the most beautiful zero emissions shoes!

But what about electric cars… aren’t they the answer? Not entirely, it would seem.. read Should I buy and electric car?

Overall the message seems to be:

  • walk and bike when you can
  • use public transport, preferably train
  • cut flying to a bare minimum.  A flight can negate all your other living greener efforts.
  • don’t buy an SUV or sports car
  • drive less and drive more economically

here are some greener transport ideas for your Change List

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *