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Green Vehicle Guide

Travel: Learn More about Travel Assumptions in the Choose a Path Tool

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Driving less and driving more efficiently can both reduce your household greenhouse gas emissions significantly. Some ways to drive less include walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit for certain trips.

Commute thumbnailWe use cars less to commute to work
Instead, workers can start telecommuting, taking clean transit, biking, or walking. The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found that 28% of vehicle miles took place on trips to and from work. If this trend continues, people could reduce GHGs from personal travel by up to 28% by using their car less to commute to work.

Shop thumbnailWe use cars less to shop and run errands
Instead, people could walk or bike; take clean public transit; or have their goods/services arrive on their doorstep by clean delivery vehicles. The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found that 33% of average annual household vehicle miles took place shopping and running errands. If this trend continues, people could reduce GHGs from personal travel by up to 33% by using their cars less to shop and run errands.

Social thumbnailWe use cars less to reach social and recreational activities
Instead, people could walk, bike, or take clean public transit to reach social and recreational activities. The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found that 24% of average annual household vehicle miles took place shopping and running errands. If this trend continues, people could reduce GHGs from personal travel by up to 24% by using their cars less to reach social and recreational activities.

School thumbnailWe use cars less for other trips, such as trips to school
Instead, people could walk, bike, or take clean public transit for other trips (besides commute, shopping, errand, and recreational trips), such as school trips. The 2009 National Household Travel Survey found that 15% of average annual household vehicle miles took place on other trips. If this trend continues, people could reduce GHGs from personal travel by up to 15% by using their cars less to make these types of trips.

Drive thumbnailWe drive cars more efficiently
Driving more efficiently can significantly reduce GHG emissions. Strategies include going easy on the gas pedal and brakes, observing the speed limit, removing excess weight, and avoiding excessive idling. We assume potential reductions are around 10%.

Community thumbnailCommunity design
Community design can help reduce the need for all types of light duty vehicle travel by making jobs, goods, services, and social and recreational activities more accessible via walking, biking, clean transit, clean freight delivery, and shorter car trips. Learn more about smart growth. Think about how convenient it would be to have your job, school, parks, stores, and library close by!

Assumptions and Calculations

2050 baseline assumption: The 2050 scenario starts at 21% below today’s GHG levels because existing fuel economy and GHG emissions standards will more than offset projected increase in miles traveled by U.S. passenger vehicles. For more information about the fuel economy and GHG standards, which should increase new vehicle fleet average fuel economy to 40 MPG by 2025, see Learn More - Technologies.

We project U.S. light-duty vehicle travel will grow from roughly 2.7 trillion miles in 2015 to about 4.0 trillion miles in 2050 in part due to projected population growth. This estimate is based on travel data from DOE’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2015 reference case. 2050 estimates are an extrapolation of AEO 2040 data using the 2013-2040 average annual compound growth rate.

Other links: For breakdown by trip purpose of average annual VMT per household, see Table 6 of the 2009 National Household Travel Survey.

See fueleconomy.gov for driving tips to improve fuel economy.