A research professor at the University of Michigan Research Institute discovered that data collected between 1970 and 2010 proves that every form of transportation is more efficient than every single light-duty vehicle.
The researcher, Michael Sivak, looked at transportation trends to transport a single person a given distance in a light-duty vehicle — ie, cars, SUVs, pickups, and vans — or on an airline flight.
Sivak measured in BTU per person mile from 1970 to 2010, and discovered that the entire fleet of light-duty vehicles would need to improve their miles per gallon efficiency from 21.5 to 33.8, or up the vehicle load from 1.38 persons to at least 2.3 persons to even touch the efficiency of air transportation.
An improvement of at least 57% in vehicle fuel economy of the entire fleet of light-duty vehicles would be required, but from 1970 to 2010, vehicle fuel economy improved by only 65%.
Sivak’s maintains that it’s no surprise that cars are as inefficient as they are. In 2010, BTU per person mile was 4,218 for driving versus 2,691 for flying, and then Amtrak trains (1,668), motorcycles (2,675) and transit buses (3,347).