Thinking sustainably while travelling in Alberta

Thinking sustainably while travelling in Alberta

Guest blog post submitted by member Mark Dumontier, InOrbis Intercity

A factor that few people consider when planning a trip is the environmental impact of different methods of travel. As an exercise, I thought I would see what information I could find on the fuel efficiency and emission volume of different transportation methods when going between Calgary and Edmonton.

I looked at the impact of driving personally between Calgary and Edmonton. Obviously fuel expenditure and emissions will change depending on car model; for simplicity, I’ve chosen to look at an average, as given here

Note: Source is from Finland. Likely a conservative estimate when compared to the average traveller within Alberta. For instance, the US Energy Information Administration gives an average for fuel consumption for cars in the US as 10 L/100km, as compared to the average given from the Finland source.

The average emissions for personal vehicles are given as 152 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per km (g CO2e / km). This assumes a single passenger, and takes into account the effects of all emissions constituents, summarized as an equivalent emission of CO2. If we look at the average occupancy of a vehicle, 1.7 persons, this falls to 89 g CO2e / km.

Let's compare to the other traditional method of travel: plane. Calgary to Edmonton flights generally use jet-engine aircraft. Looking at the statistics for such planes for ranges similar to the Edmonton-Calgary flight, we find that the same trip by plane releases on average 260 g CO2e / km for each passenger. This is an increase of double or more when compared to driving!

Finally, let’s look at a new option, travelling by Tesla with InOrbis Intercity’s Calgary-Edmonton transportation service. Tesla Model S has a range of 550 km with a 100 kWh full charge. This means that the Model S uses 0.18 kWhof power per km, or approximately 55 kWh over a one-way Calgary-Edmonton trip.

Now the environmental impact of this is going to depend greatly on the source of electricity used to charge the Tesla. Let’s assume we charge the car off the Alberta grid; approximately 40% of power in Alberta is generated using coal, 40% using natural gas, and the other 20% using various other energy sources. If we take the emissions impact of each source into account, we find that the Tesla has equivalent emissions to roughly 45 g CO2e / km. This is for the whole car; if we have multiple passengers, the emissions per passenger will decrease accordingly. 

Compared to driving oneself, the environmental impact of the trip is reduced by a factor of 2, and compared to flying, the environmental impact is reduced by a factor of 5!

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