Different means of transportation range in energy consumption
substantially. Firstly, this set of data needs careful examination as the use of power depends on a wide variety of factors. Secondly, in our case we take an ideal circumstance for public and private transportation where cars are occupied by the maximum number of allowed people and metro, tram, trains, buses, and airplanes operate at their peak capacity. As a result, this shows an upper limit of the efficiency of these transportation modes.

Energy Efficiency in Transportation Infographic
Energy Efficiency in Transportation

Efficiency based on occupancy

When the occupancy rate drops of the different transportation modes, the efficiency changes dramatically. For instance, a car with seats for 5 passengers will become 5 times less efficient from the moment it’s solely occupied by the driver. Airplane efficiency can drop to half of the plane is only 50% full, and the same can be said for trams, trains, or buses.

Energy used for production

Another factor to take into consideration is the energy that is used to create the transportation vehicle that will move people from A to B. This is not incorporated in the infographic shown above, however, it’s an important aspect. Walking does not involve any vehicle, while the power required to produce an airplane compared to a bicycle is exponentially bigger – just think of a 10 kg (22 lbs) bike and an 80,000 kg (175,000 lbs) aircraft.

You are what you eat

Your choice of food also determines how big your ecological footprint is, hence how much pollution the calories you intake produce. The food you choose has a substantial impact on harmful emissions. This means the better food you eat, the less pollution you cause by walking or riding a bicycle.

In this infographic, we do not take into account the food needed to fuel each vehicle as that would make it incoherent.

Which transportation mode to choose to reduce your carbon footprint?

The occupancy rates are not always ideal in the real world, as well as the energy spent on production varies greatly. Walking, cycling, skating, and other human-powered means of transportation are the most environmentally friendly. The best is to walk as that doesn’t even require the manufacturing of a vehicle.
In urban environments choose electrified means of transportation: metro, tram, or electrified buses. Long-distance traveling is the most eco-friendly on trains. Try to avoid driving a car alone and flying.


  1. Electric Scooter
    An electric scooter going at 18 km/h https://blossoms.mit.edu/sites/default/files/video/download/Scooter.pdf
  2. Metro
    Bombardier T-1 Subway at peak capacity with 315 passengers
  3. Tram
    Siemens Combino at peak capacity with 180 passengers
  4. Electric Bus
    BYD K9 fully electric bus at peak capacity with 58 passengers. It has a 1.41 kWh/km average energy consumption (annual average) in heavy city traffic
  5. Train
    TGV Atlantique train, 220 km/h max speed at peak capacity with 485 passengers
  6. Cycling
    64 kg person biking at 15 km/hr speed on a 10 kg bicycle: http://www.tribology-abc.com/calculators/cycling.htm
  7. Electric Car
    Tesla Model 3 Long Range, riding with 5 occupants
  8. Maglev Train
    Transrapid train in Shanghai riding at speeds of 300km/h at peak capacity with 440 passengers
  9. Walking:
    64 kg person walking at an average speed of 5.63 km/h https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15570150
  10. Bus
    Diesel bus operating in Vancouver, Canada, at peak capacity with 90 passengers on board
  11. Car
    VW Golf 1.9 Diesel Automatic, with 5 occupants inside the car
  12. Airplane
    Boeing 737, peak capacity (JetBlue Airline at 83.2% load factor) with 137 passengers on board
  13. Sports Car
    Porsche Boxster S (3.2L, 5 speed Tiptronic) with 2 occupants

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