October 10, 2012
A specious take on fuel efficiency
I’ve put a little over 18,000 miles on my motorcycle. The fact that it gets a whopping 53 mpg gives me an entirely unjustified sense of virtue as I pass other vehicles. Still, now and again I’ll consider the nominal fuel savings that I’ve achieved by riding the bike instead of driving my car. And how much might that be?
To keep things simple, I’ll round numbers grossly. I’ll assume 18,000 miles, 50 mpg for the motorcycle, and 25 for my car (which I actually know, because the car’s computer tracks this). So:
18,000 miles at 50 mpg = 360 gallons
Since the bike gets essentially twice the mileage of the car, it’s all very easy. If I'd used the car for the same miles, I would have used 720 gallons. At (assumed) $4/gallon, I’ve "saved" $1440 by riding my motorcvcle (360 x $4 = $1440).
Of course, this is all laughable. Many of the miles I’ve put on the motorcycle are miles I would never have put on the car—i.e., miles driven just for fun. Not to mention that this supposed savings in fuel expenditures doesn't come anywhere near what it cost to buy the bike in the first place, and what it costs to insure and maintain it.
Even so, every time I pass a Prius, I think "neener-neener, I get better mileage than you." And maybe by the time I’ve put 600,000 miles on the bike, it will actually represent a real savings.