If you want better fuel economy, you’ll need to park you car and head to the airport.
Although traveling by plane can be pretty daunting these days thanks to long lines at the airport and cramped quarters in the cabin, a recent study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute finds that taking flight is far more efficient than driving.
Researcher Michael Sivak bases his investigation on a measure called energy intensity, which is the amount needed to transport a single person over a distance. While cars were found to be less intense than planes in the ’70s, those numbers have completely changed, and driving had an energy intensity 2.07 times greater than domestic passenger flights in the US, according to 2012 figures.
We were still far away from making auto travel as efficient as flying was in 2012, as well. According to Sivak, the average fuel economy of the entire US light-duty fleet was 21.6 miles per gallon that year. To be in line with the energy intensity of flying, the number for cars would need to be 44.7 mpg, he calculated. We probably aren’t going to be close anytime soon, either. The UMTRI finds average new vehicle fuel economy of 25.4 mpg through March 2015 and 25.3 mpg for all of 2014.
You can keep in mind next time you’re crowded into a plane’s tiny seat that at least it’s a more energy efficient option than driving.