Two litres of fuel

It is sometimes hard to imagine how much ‘stuff’ we are talking about when we are filling up a car. Let’s for a moment assume that we purchased fuel in 2 litres bottles as we do with fizzy drinks at a shop. Such a bottle would cost £2.42 at December 2010 prices, about the same as a pint of beer. ‘Mondeo man’ would need to buy 35 of these to fill up his car at a cost of about £85.

Lets first explore how far a single two litres bottles of fuel can take someone. Starting from South Mimms services on the M25/A1 junction a highly efficient VW Bluemotion car would go 39 miles and reach almost as far as St Neots (Cambridgeshire). An average car would only get 30 mph which would get to Biggleswade (Bedfordshire); a big thirsty Range Rover would conk out after only 10.5 miles outside Welwyn Garden City (Hertfordshire).

Now, lets consider what would happen if a group of people wishing to head north put their 2 litres of fuel into a single modern express coach at South Mimms services. With a full 49 people on board they would all travel as far as Leeds in South Yorkshire, which is 180 miles.

Cars are of course much more efficient per person when they carry multiple people. A Polo Bluemotion with four occupants would travel about as far as the express coach per passenger. The problem with the car is that for most journeys the occupancy is much lower. During commuting it is 1.2 and averages out at 1.6.

This seems to suggest that government policy and taxation should discourage commuting by car which both causes major congestion at the busiest time and also is the least efficient way of using fuel due to low occupancy levels. It should also encourage car clubs which can provide cars for the family holiday and other trips that are not practical by other means without the need to car with all the associated costs.

It is another reason why express coach should be at the top of the government’s agenda for inter-urban transport rather that at the bottom where it has been languishing for decades.


VW Polo Bluemotion has an extra-urban fuel consumption of 3.2 litres per 100km which works out at 39 miles for 2 litres of fuel. For average efficiency I used a Vauxhall Astra 1.7 diesel at 4.1 litres per 100km which does 30 miles for 2 litres. Finally, the 2009 Range Rover Sport 4.2 petrol weighs in at 11.9 litres per 100km goes only 10.5 miles.

Information for express coaches is harder to find. Coach drivers generally seem to achieve something over 10 mpg on longer runs. An article in the Transport Engineer (no longer available online) indicated that the Oxford London express coach manages to achieve 10.38 mpg including extensive urban running. I have used a figure of 27 litres per 100km.

About PeterEastern
Amongst other things I am interested in the overlap between information technology and personal travel and how we can remain mobile whilst also greatly reducing the negative effects of our travel.

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