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Transportation: What Does it Cost in Terms of Carbon Emissions?

We can do a better job at reducing our travel carbon footprint, but it might require a change in our entire transport system.

Kevin Clemens

February 25, 2022

1 Min Read
Airline Travel.jpg
Markus Mainka / Alamy Stock Photo

Have you ever wondered how taking a bus or a train compares to flying or driving your own car on a trip? Using data from the UK Department For Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and Our World In Data, it is possible to look at nearly every type of transport and report on its carbon footprint, measured in grams of carbon dioxide equivalents per passenger-kilometer. The Visual Capitalist has done just that and here are their results:


Here’s what’s important:

  • A medium-sized EV has just 28 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions of a medium-sized gasoline car

  • An EV has about half the carbon emissions of a mid-sized motorcycle

  • An EV has about half the emissions per passenger-km as taking the bus

  • Taking the train is the lowest emission option, but an EV isn’t that far behind

  • Short-haul flights are the worst carbon equivalent emissions option—the rail option is much better when it’s available and could reduce your emissions by 84 percent

  • Short-range flights are the worst because take-off uses much more energy than the ‘cruise’ phase of a flight. For short flights, the efficient cruise phase is relatively short compared with mid-range and, long-range flights

It has been found that transportation emissions can make up the largest portion of an individual’s carbon footprint. Considering your transport options is a good place to start, and the above graph shows us where we should be placing our infrastructure dollars when it comes to building a lower-carbon transportation system.  

Related:Electric Aviation—12 Examples of Where We are Heading

Kevin Clemens is a Senior Editor with Battery Technology.

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