Commercial aviation: air travel economics?

This data-file estimates the economics of a commercial airliner, over the course of its life: i.e., what ticket price must be charged to earn a 10% IRR after covering the capex costs of the plane, fuel costs, crew, maintenance and airport and air traffic charges.

We conclude that the single largest determinants of economics are the utilization and load factor of the plane. Fuel and maintenance are likely to be joint second.

The IEA’s proposal for a $250/ton CO2 price in the developed world would likely increase average ticket prices by 30%. But this would most likely end up as an outright tax on travel, as 2-4x higher CO2 prices again would be required to incentivize the use of alternative, low carbon aviation fuels.

A Short History of Travel Speeds

This is our database of global travel speeds throughout history. It contains notes on the top travel-speeds attainable by different forms of transportation; plus more granular data on the average travel speeds in Britain since the 1970s.

Top travel speeds have increased by c100x since pre-industrial times, however in the past 20-years, the trend has reversed and begun slowing down. Average travel speeds are down c6-7% since 2000, connoting lower mobility.

 

Vehicle Efficiency: Electrifying?

This data-file quantifies the energy efficiency of fourteen different transportation types, in mpg, miles per kWh, passenger miles per kWh and CO2 intensity per passenger mile.

“Efficiency” is calculated using an apples-to-apples methodology, comparing real-world fuel consumption to equations of mechanics (i.e., stop-starts and air resistance, per Tab 3 in the model).

Electrification generally offers a c4x efficiency gain, jumping from c15-20% on conventional oil-powered vehicles to c60-80% on electric vehicles. Hybrids and hydrogen also yield modest efficiency improvements.

Most exciting is the set of emerging, electric transportation technologies, which are faster than incumbents, yet also achieve 4-120x efficiency gains per passenger mile (chart below).

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2022.