What is the mpg of a bicycle?
To compute my bike mpg we will need three numbers:
- Extra calories burned per mile of bike travel at roughly 13 miles per hour (my average commuting speed). For relatively flat terrain and my weight this number is roughly 42 food calories per mile (obtained from about.com).
- We need a food equivalent for the ethanol production. Let’s say I go my extra calories from eating sweet corn. According to the same source, sweet corn has 857 food calories per kilogram. So I will need to eat 49 grams of sweet corn per mile traveled at 13 miles per hour on my bike.
- Now we need to know how much ethanol can be made from 49 grams of sweet corn. The Department of Energy’s Biomass Program to the rescue. According to their website, a metric ton of dry corn can theoretically yield 124.4 gallons of ethanol. Since sweet corn is 77% water, this means that up to 0.0014 gallons of ethanol can be made from 49 grams of sweet corn.
Putting these numbers together we arrive at 0.0014 gallons of ethanol per mile or…drumbeat please:
This number is not small, but neither is it very large! There exist experimental vehicles that seat four and achieve over 100 mpg. When fully loaded, the effective, per passenger mpg is 400. If my calculations are correct, Technology is about to bring motorized transport close to the efficiency of a person on a bike!