Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Payload, Payload, Payload

Payload, the cargo and the weight of that cargo that can be carried by a vehicle is of enormous interest to the aviation industry when trying to calculate profitability.

As airplanes are thought to contribute about 3% to the problem of global warming their efficiency is also a consideration from an environmental perspective. What airlines are looking for is a "high density per seat mile". How airplane transport compares to other forms of transit might surprise you. An article in New Scientist; "Train can be worse for climate than plane" points to some interesting data.

Most of the results of similar research is counter intuitive.
Just in case you thought the prospect of lowering your carbon footprint got easy if you chose the public transport alternative consider the research that Brad Templeton has been doing.
His data is based on 1.5 passengers per car and even at that rate cars do better than lightly used rail for example.

The critical issue in any transportation mode is getting asses in seats.

The key to understanding the significance of any of the above is to realize that a hybrid Prius with one person on board is less efficient that a clunker like a Jeep Wagoneer with 4 persons in seats. The solution isn't getting the clunkers off the road, and forging new high mileage autos at great production expense and taxpayer cost.
The solution has to be improving the efficiency of the capacity we have, something like the 200 million car fleet that is on the road in America and not going anywhere.

Ride Sharing vs Car Sharing:

A conversation with Robin Chase co-founder of ZipCars looks to the future.
Now she doesn't say it explicitly but it is obvious that putting yet more cars on the road with car sharing programs is not where her head is at today.

GoLoco is the next iteration of Robin's attempt to suck up excess capacity.

One place that has been ride sharing for over 35 years is the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area. Their Slug-line program just keeps growing.

These are but two working examples of increasing efficiency by filling capacity and maximizing payload. They point the way to effective solutions to our transportation problems.


  1. Yes, let us increase our "payloads" in transportation vehicles. Unfortunately, "slugging" is somewhat carbon neutral as most slugs are former public transport commuters looking for a faster commute. The drivers who want to get in the HOV lanes are driving at speeds where the fuel efficiency of today's vehicles significantly drops off. Maybe if we can form neighborhood commuting parties out in the burbs or develop an on line database for current auto commuters to team-up, as it were, in order to increase payload and reduce the autos on the road.

    This is HUGE culture change though in a culture where we wear our cars as our overcoats.

    Gee, is there any comfort in the fact that some of the stimulus money is going to more efficient/less polluting train engines?

  2. That New Scientist article is fascinating.

    Despite the Clinton Foundation undertones, we would be really well served if we applied to our daily life the same sort of efficiency analysis that is carried out by corporations. I bet Fed Ex doesn't send out many empty trucks.

  3. It's nice to imagine cooperating with neighbors to get places and fill a car to get to work. But he's (my neighbor) kind of a weirdo and his inane conversation drives me crazy.