Carbon Impact

Car, Train, Plane…?

Air travel seems to get an unfairly bad rep when it comes to CO2 emissions per passenger. An article from the BBC stated CO2 emissions per passenger per KM as much as 133g for a domestic flight.

Even using the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) carbon emissions calculator on a trip between London Heathrow and Paris using an 80% fill rate of an A320 (around 136 passengers) they calculate the total emissions as over 3 times the amount of Carbon emitted from the fuel produced from the aircraft (the fuel KG estimate being 2659.4). How is that possible? This is because ICAO multiplies the per pax result “by 3.16 in order to obtain the amount of CO2 footprint attributed to each passenger travelling between those two airports”. This equates to 159 grams per KM per passenger.

However when we look at emissions directly attributable to the flight itself per passenger per km at an 80% fill rate, the average for the top 3 aircraft type flown in the UK (A319, A320 and B737) we see this is actually 56 grams per passenger per km. Total aircraft fuel emissions per trip/(max pax*80%)/km per trip.

Using the governments figure of car emissions per car per km of 122.1 gram per KM we can see that air travel is not only much more time efficient (including to and from airport and check in) but also has less carbon impact per KM.

Taking the car would be more efficient if the car was fully occupied – but realistically when do many cars travel with 4 occupants?

Travelling via trains such as the Eurostar will be the most C02 efficient mode of transport with an estimate per passenger per KM figure of 6.0g.

Now that the travel time for the Eurostar between LHR and Paris has been reduced to around 2hrs 15 minutes its comparable with the flight time of 1hr 15/1hr 25. Price wise again this is similar with the same date in April 22 prices were at the time of writing. Direct flight: £131 and Direct train: £126 both one way economy tickets.

So if you’re travelling from London to Paris and want to reduce CO2 emissions within a similar price and travel time, the Eurostar is best. However, there are many locations both within the UK and internationally that do not have an efficient (non-diesel fuelled) train link that is direct to the required destination.

This is where Air travel, taking into consideration time, cost and CO2 efficiency cannot be beaten.

So after all that what to do?

If time isn’t of the essence and you can travel in a fully occupied car this is likely to be more fuel efficient than flying.

If you have a conveniently direct and fuel-efficient train line – take it.

If like many of us time is of the essence, you don’t have a direct train line and you’re not planning on travelling in a fully occupied vehicle – then fly with the knowledge that you are taking the most overall efficient option.

CN aviation services ensure that any associated “negative” perception associated with flying is mitigated through carbon neutral services and those driving single occupancy cars can start to put the work in as well.

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