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Published on May 23rd, 2008 | by Nick Chambers

51

Paul McCartney’s Lexus Hybrid Gets 4 MPG

Lexus-McCartney Mashup

In a perfect example of why Cliff’s Notes don’t substitute for reading the whole book, the method by which Paul McCartney’s new luxury hybrid was delivered to him has ruined any environmental gains that might have been made by driving a hybrid in the first place. Indeed… his brand new Lexus LS 600h hybrid was flown to him by cargo plane. Questions of whether or not a 5.0-liter, V-8, 19 mile per gallon luxury behemoth really exemplifies the spirit of a “hybrid” aside, the judgment involved in shipping cars by airplane is enough to cringe at.

Doing some of my own napkin calculations (below) I came up with a fuel efficiency for the 5,966 mile trip from Tokyo to London of 4 mpg. That’s assuming the cargo plane burned 5 gallons of fuel per mile and there were 19 other cars in the plane. I’m not so sure there were 20 cars on that cargo plane, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. What this means is that the former Beatle’s new Lexus hybrid got 4 mpg for the first 5,966 miles of its life without ever starting up or even getting the chance to enjoy its V-8 glory on the open road. What a shame.

To be fair, we’ve all been guilty of this kind of inefficient transportation at some level (think bananas from South America), and Paul McCartney is simply an easy target. In fact, most new cars being bought off the lot will have a large “carbon debt” due to the simple act of manufacturing. This debt, even in the case of a Prius, will take tens of thousands of miles of driving to pay off versus something like a fuel efficient used car. In the end, the lack of wisdom here points out that we can deliver all the great new technology we want, yet without the conscious decision to change our habits we won’t make much headway in improving energy efficiency.

Napkin Mileage Calculations

*Editorial Note: Nick Chambers is the newest writer on Gas 2.0: welcome Nick!

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About the Author

Not your traditional car guy.



  • Nick Chambers

    (Note: this comment was inserted at the top of the comment string after the first 18 comments were received)

    I appreciate all the activity associated with this post. I’ve got some comments that should address a few of the recurring concerns with my article both here and on Digg:

    1) Paul McCartney is one of my music heroes. Without him much of the music we love today would not exist… at least not in its current form. It should be clear from the article that I specifically never blamed Mr. McCartney directly for the shipping of the car by air freight. He has indeed been an outspoken and influential activist when it comes to many, many environmental issues. For sure, this one instance in which he most likely didn’t have any influence over how the car was shipped is far outweighed by his life’s work.

    2) Obviously all cars on this planet at one time were shipped from somewhere. It’s a matter of economies of scale. A typical transoceanic cargo ship can hold upwards of 2000-4000+ automobiles. The amount of energy used per automobile when shipping by boat is a fraction of the energy used when shipping by airplane.

    3) Being satirical in nature, not everything in my article was meant to be taken seriously. Of course his car didn’t actually get 4 MPG. Yes this title doesn’t fully express the complexities of the situation. But it got people reading and thinking. Isn’t that what editorials are supposed to do?

    4) Actually, no I don’t have a life. This has nothing to do with my desire to write articles like this, and everything to do with the fact that I have two children under the age of three.

    5) Lastly, the whole point is that technology can only bring us so far. Changing attitudes, actions, opinions, and habits will, by far, have the most profound effect on our future welfare. Hopefully we’ll reach some point in time when a shipping manager in some far off port will decide, based on corporate policy, that shipping by air is unnecessary when shipping by boat will consume much less energy… regardless of the pop stature of the intended recipient.

  • Rachel M.

    I’m curious about the comparable equation for a Japanese car delivered via container ship, but I’m lacking more of the numbers to plug into the equation. Any ideas?

  • Rachel M.

    I’m curious about the comparable equation for a Japanese car delivered via container ship, but I’m lacking more of the numbers to plug into the equation. Any ideas?

  • John Jones

    LOL, when you have his kind of Money in the bank I guess MPG is a moot point!

    JJ

    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • John Jones

    LOL, when you have his kind of Money in the bank I guess MPG is a moot point!

    JJ

    http://www.Ultimate-Anonymity.com

  • http://realprohosting.com Mike

    You know, I am sick of hearing stuff like this when there are much more important environmental issues to be addressing. Who the hell cares how the company that gave him his car felt like getting it to him???? So they chose a cargo plane, big freaking deal. It was probably so he could get the car in time for some event, like a grand unveiling, or something, which is scheduled in advance with press and what not. Surely, they could’ve put it on a boat and pushed the date out, but that isn’t the point. All that really matters here is that you shouldn’t be harping on such bs, and stating innacuracies such as it’s getting 4mpg before even started. If you’re going to bother doing that, why don’t you figure out how much gas it took to get the steel, and rubber, and leather and other components to the location it was assembled in the first place?!?!?! Transportation is part of the whole equation of buying an automobile, simple as that. Sometimes time constraints warrant blowing more money. It cannot be helped.

    Go attack China for all the coal they are using, not a single celebrity trying to make a global difference by raising awareness, even if Toyota ultimately messed up this particular part of it.

  • http://www.almostsmart.com Eric

    Why did you do all that unnecessary math? let me simplify it for you:

    20 Cars / 5 gallons per mile = 4 miles per gallon per car

  • http://realprohosting.com Mike

    You know, I am sick of hearing stuff like this when there are much more important environmental issues to be addressing. Who the hell cares how the company that gave him his car felt like getting it to him???? So they chose a cargo plane, big freaking deal. It was probably so he could get the car in time for some event, like a grand unveiling, or something, which is scheduled in advance with press and what not. Surely, they could’ve put it on a boat and pushed the date out, but that isn’t the point. All that really matters here is that you shouldn’t be harping on such bs, and stating innacuracies such as it’s getting 4mpg before even started. If you’re going to bother doing that, why don’t you figure out how much gas it took to get the steel, and rubber, and leather and other components to the location it was assembled in the first place?!?!?! Transportation is part of the whole equation of buying an automobile, simple as that. Sometimes time constraints warrant blowing more money. It cannot be helped.

    Go attack China for all the coal they are using, not a single celebrity trying to make a global difference by raising awareness, even if Toyota ultimately messed up this particular part of it.

  • http://www.almostsmart.com Eric

    Why did you do all that unnecessary math? let me simplify it for you:

    20 Cars / 5 gallons per mile = 4 miles per gallon per car

  • Daniel

    This isn’t exactly a fair calculation. What you need to compare is the fuel used per vehicle to ship it via an ocean cargo ship vs. air cargo. a cargo ship could carry several hundred cars per ship, but runs for much longer – up to several weeks. A small 1,600 container ship burns 40 metric tons of fuel per day (works out to about 21.4 gal/mile). The fuel cargo ships use is called bunker380, and is a thick dirty leftover from the fuel refining process after they produce gasoline for cars and jet fuel, etc. I would put the numbers together more accurately, but I don’t have the time right now. You’d have to factor in # of cars/ship vs. # per plane, and then the total gas consumption of 5 gal/mile used above vs. 21.4 gal/mile for boat. Here’s some decent info: http://www.juddspittler.com/freighterbum/engineroom2.htm

  • Daniel

    This isn’t exactly a fair calculation. What you need to compare is the fuel used per vehicle to ship it via an ocean cargo ship vs. air cargo. a cargo ship could carry several hundred cars per ship, but runs for much longer – up to several weeks. A small 1,600 container ship burns 40 metric tons of fuel per day (works out to about 21.4 gal/mile). The fuel cargo ships use is called bunker380, and is a thick dirty leftover from the fuel refining process after they produce gasoline for cars and jet fuel, etc. I would put the numbers together more accurately, but I don’t have the time right now. You’d have to factor in # of cars/ship vs. # per plane, and then the total gas consumption of 5 gal/mile used above vs. 21.4 gal/mile for boat. Here’s some decent info: http://www.juddspittler.com/freighterbum/engineroom2.htm

  • http://edgarverona.livejournal.com NotQuite

    There’s a bit of info you left out. Your calculations (if your MPG estimate on the airplane was correct) are accurate, but that’s only the MPG the car “got” before it started being driven.

    If you wanted to calculate this initial gas usage’s effect on the MPG during the life of the car, you’d need to include in the MPG it’s getting as it’s being driven, estimate how many miles the car will be driven over its life, and then integrate over that. It’ll be more than 4mph.

  • http://edgarverona.livejournal.com NotQuite

    There’s a bit of info you left out. Your calculations (if your MPG estimate on the airplane was correct) are accurate, but that’s only the MPG the car “got” before it started being driven.

    If you wanted to calculate this initial gas usage’s effect on the MPG during the life of the car, you’d need to include in the MPG it’s getting as it’s being driven, estimate how many miles the car will be driven over its life, and then integrate over that. It’ll be more than 4mph.

  • MancFrank

    Let’s face it hybrids are just another class of lifestyle vehicles like sports cars or SUVs. Building any cars is never going to ‘save the planet’.

  • MancFrank

    Let’s face it hybrids are just another class of lifestyle vehicles like sports cars or SUVs. Building any cars is never going to ‘save the planet’.

  • http://edgarverona.livejournal.com NotQuite

    Er, mpg that is.

    How much more depends on how long he drives the thing.

  • http://edgarverona.livejournal.com NotQuite

    Er, mpg that is.

    How much more depends on how long he drives the thing.

  • http://greenplant.wordpress.com Green Plan(t)

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned in this article was the “He’ll be horrified after learning it was delivered by plane. Paul has always campaigned for green issues and he can’t understand why anyone would send an enormous car from Japan to Britain on a plane.”

    Whether or not he actually WAS upset by it all remains unknown, but I just thought it should be addressed here.

    Interesting article though.

  • http://greenplant.wordpress.com Green Plan(t)

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned in this article was the “He’ll be horrified after learning it was delivered by plane. Paul has always campaigned for green issues and he can’t understand why anyone would send an enormous car from Japan to Britain on a plane.”

    Whether or not he actually WAS upset by it all remains unknown, but I just thought it should be addressed here.

    Interesting article though.

  • R G

    This argument completely ignores the idea of relative comparisons. Of course there are more energy efficiency issues than just driving a car. The question is whether or not the methods overall are maximizing efficiency. In this case, even if the car is technically getting 4 mpg for that first trip (which is deceiving in the headline since it appears to be an overall lifetime average), what do other cars get if you include their transport? It is entirely possible, if not likely, that McCartney has left a larger carbon footprint than many here; however, without a similar number for the average car, the numbers are deceptive and irrelevant.

  • R G

    This argument completely ignores the idea of relative comparisons. Of course there are more energy efficiency issues than just driving a car. The question is whether or not the methods overall are maximizing efficiency. In this case, even if the car is technically getting 4 mpg for that first trip (which is deceiving in the headline since it appears to be an overall lifetime average), what do other cars get if you include their transport? It is entirely possible, if not likely, that McCartney has left a larger carbon footprint than many here; however, without a similar number for the average car, the numbers are deceptive and irrelevant.

  • http://idiot smokey12

    BAD math

    it does not take 30,000 miles to go 6,000 miles. gah

    hippy=on drug= bad math

  • junior

    this makes no sense. this is also true for the non-hybrid car shipped in the same fashion. the only difference is that once its delivered the hybrid car will emit less co2. now, thats not to say that the method of transportation cant be addressed….but assuming every car is transported the same way, this isnt as drastic as you make it seem. a regular fuel burning car would have a lifetime mpg of less than the 4 you calculated…..

  • junior

    this makes no sense. this is also true for the non-hybrid car shipped in the same fashion. the only difference is that once its delivered the hybrid car will emit less co2. now, thats not to say that the method of transportation cant be addressed….but assuming every car is transported the same way, this isnt as drastic as you make it seem. a regular fuel burning car would have a lifetime mpg of less than the 4 you calculated…..

  • Sean

    Great article. Sir Paul supposedly thought it was going to be shipped by boat and Lexus was the party that decided ship it by air.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1951848/Paul-McCartney-'horrified'-as-his-eco-car-is-flown-7,000-miles-from-Japan.html

  • Sean

    Great article. Sir Paul supposedly thought it was going to be shipped by boat and Lexus was the party that decided ship it by air.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1951848/Paul-McCartney-'horrified'-as-his-eco-car-is-flown-7,000-miles-from-Japan.html

  • http://-- Meh

    It went 5,966 miles without even STARTING ITS ENGINE?

    Sounds like the world’s MOST efficient car to me.

  • Jeff

    How else would you like items to be delivered to you? Plane, Train, Boat? Sure the air choice cost more, and might harm the environment, oh, maybe a teenie, tiny bit, but is it enough to write a blog post on a website about it? Were you sitting in a room with the lights on, using a computer that requires electricity? Did you harm the environment by writing about it?

    I get your point, but come on, give the guy his credit for trying to do something good. It is an awesome car!!

    Cheers!!

  • Jeff

    How else would you like items to be delivered to you? Plane, Train, Boat? Sure the air choice cost more, and might harm the environment, oh, maybe a teenie, tiny bit, but is it enough to write a blog post on a website about it? Were you sitting in a room with the lights on, using a computer that requires electricity? Did you harm the environment by writing about it?

    I get your point, but come on, give the guy his credit for trying to do something good. It is an awesome car!!

    Cheers!!

  • JONO

    But if McCartney had bought a Hummer and had it flown to him, that would be much worse.

    If all you can see is the negative you are not likely to ever be very happy.

  • JONO

    But if McCartney had bought a Hummer and had it flown to him, that would be much worse.

    If all you can see is the negative you are not likely to ever be very happy.

  • Bob

    You’ve got to be joking, right? You seriously have nothing else to concern yourself with? Wow dude, get a freaking life.

    - The World

  • Bob

    You’ve got to be joking, right? You seriously have nothing else to concern yourself with? Wow dude, get a freaking life.

    - The World

  • http://www.stationstops.com Stationstops

    “I’m not so sure there were 20 cars on that cargo plane, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt”

    The benefit of the doubt – of course, as no one charters an entire cargo plane for a single piece of cargo, unless thats all that will fit.

    But the calculation is actually the entire fuel expenditure of the aircraft divided by the laden planes gross weight – gives you fuel per pound ($fpp), then $fpp*$car_weight = $delivery_fuel

    Even then, it is only relative to the $delivery_fuel of the standard delivery method of that car, or the $delivery_fuel of any comparison vehicle, as there is always $delivery_fuel. Its all relative.

  • http://www.stationstops.com Stationstops

    “I’m not so sure there were 20 cars on that cargo plane, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt”

    The benefit of the doubt – of course, as no one charters an entire cargo plane for a single piece of cargo, unless thats all that will fit.

    But the calculation is actually the entire fuel expenditure of the aircraft divided by the laden planes gross weight – gives you fuel per pound ($fpp), then $fpp*$car_weight = $delivery_fuel

    Even then, it is only relative to the $delivery_fuel of the standard delivery method of that car, or the $delivery_fuel of any comparison vehicle, as there is always $delivery_fuel. Its all relative.

  • http://iamform.com Lau

    hypocrite!! all of these stars and environmentalists

  • http://iamform.com Lau

    hypocrite!! all of these stars and environmentalists

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  • Adam Chambers

    This is very insightful, Nick, and very creatively written and presented. High quality stuff! Keep it up!

  • Adam Chambers

    This is very insightful, Nick, and very creatively written and presented. High quality stuff! Keep it up!

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  • Mike

    Nice Articles Check out the Lexus LF-A

  • Mike

    Nice Articles Check out the Lexus LF-A

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  • Travis

    It’s interesting to read all the griping comments about this post. The major point I think some readers are missing is the extra “hidden” costs associated with purchases we make in our lives, whether or not we are trying to be green.

    These costs need to be calculated if we are to really understand and reduce our carbon footprints. It applies to anything from how and where the milk you buy is transported, to how the car you buy is transported.

    Yes, it seems a little trivial to point this out for one person who is trying to be green, but the point is we need to count all these extra carbon sources that we don’t think about if we are to do anything abouit our C02 emmissions.

  • Travis

    It’s interesting to read all the griping comments about this post. The major point I think some readers are missing is the extra “hidden” costs associated with purchases we make in our lives, whether or not we are trying to be green.

    These costs need to be calculated if we are to really understand and reduce our carbon footprints. It applies to anything from how and where the milk you buy is transported, to how the car you buy is transported.

    Yes, it seems a little trivial to point this out for one person who is trying to be green, but the point is we need to count all these extra carbon sources that we don’t think about if we are to do anything abouit our C02 emmissions.

  • RideTheFuture

    Awww, c’mon guys,

    do we really wanna go and add the cargo freighters MPG into the new Think EV’s when they arrive from Norway??

    I’m green minded but that takes it too far!

    ;-)

  • RideTheFuture

    Awww, c’mon guys,

    do we really wanna go and add the cargo freighters MPG into the new Think EV’s when they arrive from Norway??

    I’m green minded but that takes it too far!

    ;-)

  • Jim

    The best way to conserve is to keep driving (and maintaining) the same vehicle. Keep the battery ores in the ground. Drive your SUV… only sparingly.

  • Jim

    The best way to conserve is to keep driving (and maintaining) the same vehicle. Keep the battery ores in the ground. Drive your SUV… only sparingly.

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