Energy Efficiency and Use: Ships vs Rail vs Truck vs Air

Distance Traveled for One Ton of Cargo Using 1 kWh of Energy

The transportation of freight relies on a variety of modes, each having its own level of energy performance. The energy benefits of economies of scale in maritime shipping are evident, but the reach of maritime shipping is limited to port facilities.


Energy Consumption by Transportation Mode in the United States, 1960-2010 (in Trillion BTUs)


Road accounts for about 84% of all the energy consumed by transportation in the United States and this share has remained relatively constant in time. After decades of continuous growth, energy consumption appears to be leveling off. This is in part due to the growing energy efficiency of modes as well as lower economic growth prospects.

Fuel Marine Aviation Road
Type of fuel Low quality (bunker oil) High quality (jet fuel) Medium quality (diesel, gasoline)
Market size (year) 150 M metric tons 190 M metric tons 650 M metric tons
% of operating costs 40% 25% 18-20%
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