Heavier Drivers Consume More Fuel

Nov 01, 2006

The rising incidence of obesity in the United States doesn't just lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, it also increases fuel consumption in passenger vehicles, according to a study by Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Americans have gained an average of 24 pounds since 1960, and that has resulted in an extra 938 million gallons of fuel consumed annually, according to the study, which will be posted online in the October-December issue of The Engineering Economist journal.

The researchers, Laura A. McLay, Ph.D., an assistant professor in VCU's Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research, and Sheldon H. Jacobson, a professor of computer science and director of the simulation and optimization laboratory at UIUC, based their conclusions on data collected from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for the period covering 1960 to 2002.

The calculations were based on non-commercial, passenger vehicles -- cars and light trucks -- and ruled out factors that would decrease fuel efficiency such as increasing the cargo weight or decreased maintenance.

"The key finding is that nearly 1 billion gallons of fuel are consumed each year because of the average weight gain of people living in the United States since 1960 -- nearly three times the total amount of fuel consumed by all passenger vehicles each day based on current driving habits," McLay and Jacobson wrote. "Moreover, it is estimated that over 39 million gallons of fuel are consumed annually for every one pound increase in average passenger weight.

"Although the amount of fuel consumed as a result of the rising prevalence of obesity is small compared to the increase in the amount of fuel consumed stemming from other factors such as increased car reliance and an increase in the number of drivers … it still represents a large amount of fuel, and will become even more significant as the rate of obesity increases," according to the study.

The study reports that in 2002, an estimated 65 percent of Americans were overweight, and more than 30 percent were considered obese, defined as having a body mass index of more than 30.

Source: Virginia Commonwealth University

Explore further: Engineers develop gift guide for parents

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Toward a networked energy future

Oct 29, 2014

February 1, 2050, is a good day for German electricity consumers. The breeze off the north coast is blowing so strongly that offshore wind farms and the wind turbines on land are running non-stop. Since it's ...

Obstacles to a revolution in air technology

Oct 13, 2014

When in 1873 Jules Verne published his novel of planet-trotting high adventure, the world was on the verge of an explosion in global travel. New trans-continental railways and the Suez canal promised an increas ...

Recommended for you

Engineers develop gift guide for parents

Nov 21, 2014

Faculty and staff in Purdue University's College of Engineering have come up with a holiday gift guide that can help engage children in engineering concepts.

Former Brown dean whose group won Nobel Prize dies

Nov 20, 2014

David Greer, a doctor who co-founded a group that won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for working to prevent nuclear war and who helped transform the medical school at Brown University, has died. He was 89.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.