Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step


July 17, 2006

One Person in a Big Truck

Category: Conservation,Rants,Save Fuel,Transportation – Tom Harrison – 1:09 am

We drove back from Cape Cod today after a long weekend. There sure are a lot of large vehicles on the road … and hardly any small or efficient ones. Repeatedly, we observed trucks of the class Expedition/Yukon/Suburban/Tahoe carrying a single person. Compared to the average mileage, these behemoths do poorly: where average is ~25 MPG highway, they get about 1/2 of average. Our Prius today arrived from our trip in our driveway reporting average mileage of 48.2 MPG, which is about 2x better than average, so about 4x better than the big truck SUVs.

I hear people saying the Prius is small. They need room for … something. I am not sure what. Our two kids came along with beach toys. We packed two suitcases, one large and one small and still had room for a large bag of beach towels, some food, and a bag of books we bought. I regularly bring adults in the car (when we don’t walk to lunch at work on rainy days) — there’s plenty of legroom, a little tight for five large adults, but then so was my old “full sized” Camry. I have a roof rack and can carry sheet-rock, plywood, lumber and they like. The back seats fold down. So, how is it small?

But aside from the 4x difference in gas mileage between these massive vehicles and the Prius, consider that the one person in the Expedition or Suburban used a gallon of gas to go 12 miles. One person in our car used a gallon of gas to go the same 48 miles as three others, so per mile we were getting sixteen times better per-person mileage of 192 MPG/person.

We drove by a passenger van, a Chevy which I think can carry 12 people (It had only the driver). It’s based on the same frame as the Suburban, I think, and I guess it also gets about 12 MPG. Even with 12 people it’s still a less efficient vehicle than the Prius.

Don’t just use your vehicle, use it wisely. And don’t just think any old hybrid gets you off the hook. Bottom line mileage is better compared to the non-hybrid version, but still not always that great.

So if you’re getting a hybrid, you could get the Camry, which claims 40MPG City, 38 Hwy. The Prius claims 60 city, 55 highway. Do you really, really need the extra size, weight, or whatever else the Camry has over the Prius? I had a Camry before, and I can honestly say I don’t miss a thing. Don’t bother with the Highlander, which gets a combined mileage of 29MPG — better than the non-hybrid 22MPG, but not much.

Challenge your assumptions about what you “need” in your transportation. Challenge the assumptions of others. Try living smaller and more efficiently. It’s not painful — I promise.

But above all, don’t get one of those massive trucks. They are wrong in just about every possible way.

Sorry to vent.

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