Hey Mr. Green,
Every morning I arrive at work in my Scion xB (30 average miles per gallon) to find a parking lot full of gigantic, truck-like SUVs, all of which have transported but a single passenger. Occasionally I’ll ask a co-worker, “What kind of mileage do you get in that?” The numbers they report are shocking--always far below 20mpg. But it’s the next thing out of their mouths that really kills me: they all say something like, "But I just use it to drive the short distance to and from work, so it doesn't really matter."
I know that this response makes absolutely no sense, but I'm at a complete loss to rebut them. Can you please offer a snappy and rational response that might get one or two of these gas guzzlers to think twice? --Stumped by Chumps, in Cleveland
Well, Stumped, I’ll let you judge whether the following comments qualify as “snappy and rational,” but at least they’re based on mathematical reality instead of the remarkable fantasies of motorists. The fact is that MOST mileage racked up by cars and SUVs is for “short distances.” The average trip to work is 12.6 miles each way, while the average of all trips is 10.1 miles, according to U.S. Department of Energy surveys. Assuming that your coworkers are typical commuters and are fortunate enough to get all weekends off plus 3 weeks’ total vacation time, they’d be making 240 trips to work annually. That’s a total of over 6,000 miles per year, or half of the 12,000 miles the average personal vehicle travels each year. So while their trips may seem short, the total impact is far greater than a family’s memorable holiday drive to visit Grandma in Dubuque.
Some scarier calculations follow from these basic numbers. An SUV driven those 6,000 miles at 15 mpg would burn over 400 gallons of fuel, emitting almost 4 tons of global-warming carbon dioxide. At $3.50 a gallon, fuel alone for the year’s commuting exceeds $2,000. But of course gas is not the only or even the biggest expense. When you figure in financing, insurance, license, maintenance, depreciation, etc., the total cost per mile for an SUV can now run as high as 97 cents per mile, or a whopping $6,000 a year for the commute. Even a small car typically costs more than 50 cents a mile to own and operate, according to the American Automobile Association
Considering all these moral and economic incentives, it’s astounding that more people do not carpool. But the sad fact is that 75 percent of commuters drive alone, while only 10 percent carpool, and a meager 5 percent take mass transit. If you can’t persuade friends or coworkers to share the commute, find out more about ride-sharing possibilities in your area at http://www.erideshare.com/