Saturday, 8 February 2014

90% transport

I have been tracking our fuel receipts for a few years now. We have 2 cars. One is a small, fairly efficient, petrol-engined car. The other is a very old diesel-engined, 8 seater people carrier. You may have guessed it is rather inefficient, but incredibly useful for camping, sharing lifts or carrying big loads. It is also 4 wheel drive, so tends to be safer to use in muddy or snowy conditions (ok mainly muddy conditions!). It isn't used so much now, but on Thursdays it really comes into its own, when I drop off at dancing on the other side of town. Last week I gave lifts to girls from 4 different families as well as my own kids, so we are potentially saving 4 other car journeys. In my mind that makes it effectively 4 times more efficient. Also I wait outside dance, rather than going to and fro, so saving even more journeys :-)

I am a bit of a spreadsheet anorak! The graph below shows the total amount of fuel we use a year, made up of the blue for diesel and red for petrol. It is great to see that we spend £840 a year less on fuel now than we did 2 years ago, which equates to 700 litres (154 gallons) less fuel. Some of this saving is down to changing to a more efficient, smaller car in April 2012. We have also reduced our speed on motorways, averaging just 60-65mph, where the limit is 70mph, to reduce our fuel consumption.

How do we do against the average American and can we achieve a 90% reduction? I'm going to use Sharon Astyks analysis to work it out. This is the section referring to transport fuel.

1. Gasoline. Average American usage is 500 gallons (2,273 litres) PER PERSON, PER YEAR. A 90 percent reduction would be 50 gallons (227 litres) PER PERSON, PER YEAR.

I'm not really sure if gasoline is petrol or diesel, but for ease I'm going to use it for both. Our total for 2013 was 2,006 litres (441 gallons). However this is for the whole family and also includes our business miles. At first I thought that 'per person' consumption meant per person who can drive a car, but after a bit of digging through old posts it appears that it means per person in the family. I'm going to exclude my eldest daughter who is at Uni most of the time and has now had her own small car for 6 months. So for 5 people we use 401 litres (88 gallons) each. What about business miles? Should they count or not?

I only have mileage figures to go on for business use, so I have used the annual odometer reading, taken from the MOT records, and worked out that 50% of our total mileage is business use. If we recalculated our consumption per person, excluding business use, we are at 200 litres (44 gallons) per person per year. Now in addition a journey shared is a journey halved - but this is just too much to record and analyse. Without the business miles we are below the 90% target and including them we are only a little bit over, especially if shared lifts were included. Hurray - this is one target that I have more or less nailed!

We have taken lots of steps to reduce our car usage, but I really feel we could still do better. I have specifically chosen to work from home to cut out time, money and pollution commuting. We live on the edge of town, but still only 2 or 3 miles away from the town centre, and there is a good bus route (which I don't use, but should!) . It is 2 minutes walk to the supermarket and post office, 15 minutes walk to my daughters school, 25 minutes bike ride to my sons school and 25 minutes ride to the train station. We rarely go to the nearest city for shopping, which is a whole 15 miles away, but we do travel 150 miles to visit family. I feel like I am always driving around giving kids lifts places, but as most of the journeys are short and our car is small these aren't really amounting to as much as it seems.

Still, I know families who bike almost everywhere and I pass them in my car everyday :-(  They aren't just 'fairweather' cyclists like us! The weather can really put you off cycling, as you need head-to-toe waterproofs, gloves, hi-vis gear and of course bike lights. We are not well kitted out for this and to top it all off my bike has been stolen, so no cycling this winter! But when we go bike shopping I will be looking to get properly kitted out, so there are no more excuses. If I can skim another £800 off our fuel bill it will be well worth it.

My perception of a 90% reduction would be like one of these cycling families who are all on their bikes whatever the weather, no matter what distance - but my perception is wrong. They are the 99% reduction. A 90% reduction looks more like me! Living close to the places that we visit every day, walking when I can but still using a small efficient car regularly for short journeys and making sure that we liftshare whenever possible. Where do you think you fit on the scale?

I have been searching for the UK average per person fuel consumption and the best I can come up with is from the Department of Transport: Road Transport Forcasts 2011, which state...

In 2010 the average person in Great Britain made 960 trips, travelling a total of 6,726 miles.

Using average UK fuel efficiency would give 808 litres (178 gallons) per person, which I have used in the graph above. This is already 36% of the American average that Sharon uses. So chances are, if you live on this small island, your fuel consumption isn't too bad either ;-)


  1. Well done Judy - for making those wonderful savings, for keeping the records, for the analysis and for presenting it all so clearly. From one spreadsheet anorak to another!

    1. Thanks Carol. More graphs coming in the next post :)