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D bEconomic Work per Unit of Energy

Warren Buffett, “It {railroads} moves a ton of goods 470 miles on one gallon of fuel.”  This is 188 times more efficient than moving a 200 pound person at 25 mpg. Yet Federal highway policies have replaced 45% of freight railroads with roads.
The highway monopoly created since The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1916:
year Miles Change % replaced by roads
1916 254,000
1940 242,660 12,005 4.7%
1950 224,088 30,577 12%
1970 203,000 51,665 20.3%
1980-current 140,000 114,665 45%

We need a better know-what.


JPods uses solar to power our networks.

The average American uses 88 megawatt-hours per year, the average German uses 47. Americans can cut our energy use in half and still have an advance economy. Cutting our energy use in half by 2019 is the path to solving the Civilization Killers currently facing America.

70% of car miles in the US are driven in cities.

Driving a car costs about 59.2 cents per mile. JPods vehicles operate a 4 cents per vehicle-mile. Energy and costs are highly correlated. The chart below compares energy per passenger-mile for various modes of transportation.

Calculations of fuel efficiencies.

FTE is Freight Train Equivalent. The 140,000 miles of freight railroads in the US average 470 ton-miles per gallon of diesel. This is over 140 times the efficiency of moving a ton to move a person in a car on highways. In contrast to the efficiency of rails networks, the government highway monopoly retains the efficiency of the Model-T.

USAToday  February 6, 2015.

The average gas mileage of all cars and trucks sold in the U.S. in January was 25.4 miles per gallon. While that was up from 25.1 mpg in December, it was down from August’s all-time high of 25.8 mpg. As gas prices have slid, more people have been buying larger, more fuel-thirsty vehicles.

Electric cars actually create more pollution in their life-cycle than diesel cars. Highways networks require people to spend $8,876 per year per car for something that is parked 95% of the time.

Walking a mile requires about 100 calories or 116 watt-hours, bikes are 10-20 watt-hour/mile. DOE Transportation Energy Data Book

Mode Passengers-vehicle BTU’s passenger-mile passenger-km FTE
Watt-hours Watt-hours
Freight Railroads 22 6 4 1
JPods 1.57 260 76 47 13
Performance Standard 1.57 954 280 174 47
Van pool 6.1 1322 389 242 65
Motorcycles 1.2 1855 545 339 91
Rail, Amtrak 20.5 2650 779 484 130
Rail, Transit (light & heavy) 22.5 2784 818 508 136
Rail, Commuter 31.3 2996 881 548 147
Air, domestic 96.2 3261 959 596 160
Cars 1.57 3512 1032 641 172
Personal trucks 1.72 3944 1159 720 193
Bus, Transit 8.8 4235 1245 774 208
Taxi, demand response 1 14301 4204 2613 701

Source on cost per passenger-mileCars are $0.592 per vehicle-mile according to AAA is adjusted by the 1.57 passengers/car reported by DOE.  The 1.57 Load is also applied to JPods costs of $0.04 per vehicle-mile.

Example Ton-mile per gallon calculations (link):

The 2015 CSX system-wide train efficiency metric equals:

229,562,353,000 ton-miles / 487,540,790 gallons = 471 ton-miles per gallon.

In other words CSX trains, on average, can move a ton of freight nearly 500 miles on a gallon of fuel, based on our 2015 revenue ton miles and 2015 fuel use.

The fuel efficiency for a freight truck can be estimated in a similar way. For example, a heavy-duty diesel truck that hauls 19 tons of freight a distance of 500 miles would consume approximately 71 gallons of diesel fuel. The efficiency of this freight haul would be calculated as:

(19 tons x 500 miles) / 71 gallons = 134 ton-miles per gallon.

My calculations:

  • Platform Trucks get 7.8 mpg
  • Tractor-trailers get 5.3 mpg, 80,000 GVWT with a typical road weight of 59,500. Vehicle weight is about 35,000 pounds, or payload of 25,500 pounds or 12.75 tons, or (12.75*5.3) = 67.6 ton-miles per gallon.

This efficiency might be stated as “a truck can move a ton of freight 134 miles on a gallon of fuel.”

Similarly, a typical train might haul 3000 tons of freight 500 miles and consume approximately 3185 gallons of diesel fuel. The efficiency of this freight haul would be calculated as:

(3000 tons x 500 miles) / (3185 gallons) = 471 ton-miles per gallon.

This efficiency might be stated as “a train can move a ton of freight 471 miles on a gallon of fuel.”

In this example, the train is approximately 3.5 times more efficient at hauling freight.

Additional information about fuel efficiency for various modes can be found on Mother Nature Network.

Number of trips:

Half of all trips are three miles or less, but fewer than 2 percent of those trips are made by bicycle, while 72 percent of them are driven. Private vehicles like cars, pick-up trucks, and SUVs, account for 60 percent of trips of a mile or less. Think about that next time you hear people wondering why we have such big problems with the environment, health and childhood obesity, and traffic congestion.

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Depletion Rates, Kurt Cobb

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