15 May 2010

The Oh so Efficient Bicycle

The Most Efficient Machine in History
Iain Boal's now famous chart of transport/motion effciency.

The Green Machine.

14 comments:

Just a cyclist said...

You forgot the disclaimer: Only applies when cycling on smooth paving

Clever said...

could be an illustration to this, probably my all-time favorite passage on biking: http://clevercycles.com/energy_and_equity/#degofs

merlin said...

If I read this correctly, the position of the automobile is relative to the weight of the automobile itself, not the weight of the individual person being transported; same for other means of motorized transport. The efficiency of motorized transport would look much worse otherwise. The purpose of the single-occupant automobile is to transport the occupant, not to move heavy chunks of steel.
And that is the great beauty of the bicycle - the weight of the machine does not significantly add to the energy cost of moving machine and rider.

William said...

It's a great chart - double logarithms and all - because it's such a nice thing to be able to visually compare these abstract numbers.

Merlin, in the light of your statement, how do you like these cars? http://carspector.com/chart/lightest/

merlin said...

Thanks, William - still, none of them beats the bicycle!

Matt said...

I'd vote for two more efficient modes of transport than a man on a bike:
* a man on an electric bike
* a godwit, which flies for 10,000km on less than a half kilo of body fat.

Glenn said...

I watched all 5 of the episodes of Mr. Boal's presentation. One of the things he said was that the chart was misleading because the energy requirement for the bicycle did not include the embeded energy in the road _or_ the bicycle. To be fair, it is biased in favour of the car in the same way.
However, it is relevant in comparison to any animal, or to a human being walking. It's easier to walk on a sidewalk, but a person can manage a rough trail on foot much better than on a bicycle.

Glenn

William said...

@Matt
This would place the godwit at 0,3;0,7 - squarely between the pigeon and the salmon.

John Romeo Alpha said...

Where would you put a sailboat?

patty said...

sailboat goes in your garage next to your bicycle, together the most efficient way to travel the globe!

JohnCanon said...

I just thought of something ... how about a salmon on a bicycle?

matt said...

The New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority agrees. A man on a bicycle is more efficient than an electric trolleybus and you better not claim the opposite

See:
http://wellingtoncycleways.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/go-wellington-trolley-buses-not-as-green-as-a-bicycle/

@JohnCanon - salmon riding bicycles is just silly - how would the salmon wear a helmet?

smurfix said...

@patty: that's easy, you use a recumbent bike. It is even more efficient than a standard diamond-frame bike (less air drag), and you don't need a helmet -- if a recumbent tilts, you don't hit your head on the pavement.

50cycles Electric Bikes said...

Matt is right, a recent energy flow analysis indicated that pedal-assist electric bicycles are the most efficient means of transport yet invented.

http://knol.google.com/k/energy-global-warming-and-electric-bicycles