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The Cost Of Obesity To Fuel Use? One Billion Gallons A Year

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Erwin Wurm's Fat Car

Erwin Wurm's Fat Car

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It's not just cars that are getting bigger and heavier--a quick look around the local mall is enough to see that the average person on the street is more portly than their counterpart from a generation ago.

Every year, obesity costs the country huge amounts of money, from $190 billion in extra medical costs, to over $1,000 per special toilet needed to cope with people weighing 700 pounds.

It also means a huge amount of wasted fuel, according to MSNBC. In jet fuel alone the increase in passenger weights adds up to $5 billion more than it would have at 1960s weights, and it means $4 billion in extra gasoline for cars.

That equates to around a billion gallons extra per year. If the average person has a car that does 30 MPG and drives 12,000 miles a year, that's the equivalent of over 2,700,000 extra cars on the road every year in the U.S.

A report as part of the Campaign to End Obesity reveals that while the number of Americans considered overweight has remained fairly static since the 60s--32 percent in 1961, 34 percent in 2008--cases of obesity have tripled to 34 percent, and morbid obesity has risen sixfold to 6 percent.

It's not surprising that more fuel is being used as a result--it takes more energy to move a heavier object than it does a lighter one, and a car full of heavy passengers can quickly had hundreds of pounds to the vehicle's weight. The result is 938 million gallons of extra fuel per year, 0.8 percent extra.

That's before you consider the additional cost to each individual consumer--springs, shocks, clutches, torque converters, brakes and more have to work harder with more weight on board, and be replaced sooner. Arguably some of that would offset the negative costs to the economy in terms of increased business for the parts industry, but there's still the green issue of millions of wasted gallons to consider...

So the next time you're about to criticize an automaker for its latest model being larger and heavier than before, take a look in the mirror and make sure the same can't be said about yourself...

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Comments (4)
  1. Well at 175 pounds, I sometimes travel to work on a 40 pound vehicle and sometime travel in a 2400 pound vehicle. I think the 2400 pound vehicle is really the problem.
     
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  2. Sorry, I didn't mean to hit "thumbs down"...wish I could edit that...
     
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  3. Good article Antony and very revealing about how much extra fuel it takes. Reminds me of the film Wall-e where the earthlings are totally immobile and depend on powered chairs much the same as Toyota and others are touting at car shows.
    They must see a market for them.
     
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  4. Interesting...in over 100k miles, part of which I drove alone, and part of which I carried a 350 lb. passenger in my 1991 Geo Metro, I noticed:
    No difference in fuel economy
    No difference in brake life
    No problems with springs or shocks
    No transmission problems (torque converter was fine)


    Driving habits, and people driving alone in their SUVs and giant pickup-trucks use a hell of a lot more fuel than my 350 lb wife.
     
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