Avoid, shift & improve your transport choices

Updated 8th November to reflect questions coming in on Twitter and elsewhere, CAP23 due out this November 2022. With the announcement of CAP21 – Climate Action Plan 2021 and its aim to reduce car km travelled by 25%, this was a blog post based on Climate Reality | Transport in 2 minutes (out of 24Hrs of Realty #LetsGetReal) 30th October 2021 at Rediscovery Centre Ballymun.

  • Ireland’s transport emits one fifth[i] of our greenhouse gas emissions
  • The biggest single emitter by far is our private car travel (40% of total transport or 8% of total).
  • We Irish drive 30% more than the EU average at 18,000km per year (latest data 2019 is 16,000 vs 11,000km).
  • We spend more on transport each week than we do on food including eating out (CSO 2016 next household budget survey delayed by COVID). We do spent less than other countries on transport though at a household level.

What can we do about this now, today?

COVID restrictions showed us we can avoid travel and did reduce our transport emissions by 21%[ii]; we can choose to avoid, shift and improve our travel choices each time we travel.

Of our journeys less than 2km, 29%[iii] are by car, of those less than 4km the figure is 40%; we can choose to walk or cycle

To avoid car travel, and assuming you have to drive, consolidate your trips and use less fuel in a cold engine. It will cost you less per Km and your car’s emissions control equipment will be more effective after 8km (roughly how long it takes to warm an engine)

To Shift your mode of travel, download and use the TFI Journey Planner app – https://www.transportforireland.ie/journey-planner-app/ .

  • Whilst bikes have seen increased use in the last several years, we hear more about EVs: The world’s biggest selling electric vehicle is not a car its the electric bike! 10 ebikes are sold for every electric car worldwide, including in Europe – the world’s largest EV market. We must count all road users equally.

When Improving the performance of your current car, please bear in mind;

  • An average Irish family car costs over €10,000[iv] per annum to own and run, but you can use a car club app for as little as €10+/hour including fuel. Globally, for the under 30’s the car is being replaced by a mobile phone.
  • To save fuel in the car you have now use your car’s trip computer to see how much slowing down saves you in fuel, you can add as much as 100km to a tank.

If you are on Twitter or now Mastodon: When parked, please tweet @conormolloy pictures of your average fuel use from your trip computer, before and after you save fuel; hashtag #LetsGetReal

This next section added November 2022 to answer some questions online.

Check your vehicle for . . .

How much ‘stuff’ is in your boot or load area? Every extra 60kg increases fuel consumption by 2%. Why 60kg? Thats the standard used in transport planning for a passenger. Now I weight 90kg (on a good day), so I’ll let you do the math on how much extra it would cost you to carry me around. Empty your boot.

Is there an empty roof rack on your car? The rule of thumb for an empty roof rack is an extra 5% fuel consumption – take the roof rack off until you need it. A roof box is even worse, you will be able to see the fuel gauge go down as you feel the cross winds. A study calculated that banning all roof racks in the USA would improve national fuel performance by 0.8% based on 13-21% extra fuel consumption in wind tunnel testing.

So much for taking stuff off, what can we turn on?

Many modern (6-8 years old) cars have speed limiters, you may even have turned it on accidentally. If you can’t slow yourself down e.g. from 120 to 100kph to save fuel, consider setting a speed limiter on the vehicle.

For fleet managers with vans this may be a factory setting or a small fee at the dealer, buts it’s well worth doing even a 10% reduction can save 12-18% in fuel at motorway speeds.

Low tyre pressures can cost 1-5% in extra fuel use. Turn on the tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) if you have one and make a habit of checking tyre pressures regularly – at least once a month and before every long or high-speed journey.

The trip computer on your dashboard may also alert you to extra fuel consumption from heated windows and mirrors, or air conditioning in the summer, turn on these ‘eco’ alerts and act on them.

Thank you for your attention, please travel safe, avoid, shift and improve your travel choices to slow down, save money and emissions.


[i] 20% of emissions from transport – SEAI, of which 40% is car travel https://www.seai.ie/publications/Energy-in-Ireland-2020-Infographic.pdf

[ii] 21% reduction per SEAI https://www.seai.ie/news-and-media/seai-publishes-irelands-2/

[iii] 29% of journey less than 2km by car https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-nts/nationaltravelsurvey2019/

CSO National Travel Survey 2019 – CSO National Travel Survey 2019 – https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-nts/nationaltravelsurvey2019/

[iv] AA Ireland 2019 “The average cost of running a family car for a year is €10,691.12 according to the AA’s annual survey of motoring costs.” Over 16,000km per year. https://www.theaa.ie/aa/motoring-advice/cost-of-motoring.aspx

ASIf framework devised by Schipper and Marie (1999) and adopted by the IPCC (Kahn Ribeiro et al, 2007; Sims et al, 2014) and widley used by consultants and facilitators everywhere, including the Irish EPA and Dept of Transport.

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