The fuel consumption of any mode of transportation is typically dependent upon the horsepower demands of the engine. The larger and faster an object is, the greater horsepower thrust required from the engine, thus less efficiency in terms of miles per gallon. Private jets get fewer miles per gallon than sport utility vehicles (SUVs) because of the aircraft's weight and speed.
Most private jets get less than five miles per gallons (mpg). A 17,000 pound Lear Jet 35, capable of carrying seven people at 485 mph gets about 4 mpg. A Gulfstream G-5 weighs 90,000 pounds is capable of carrying up to 18 people at over 530 mph. Because of its greater size and speed, it gets about 1.3 mpg. By comparison, the mileage of SUVs ranges between 11 mpg on the low end, and 34 mpg on some of the 2010 hybrid models.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the average nationwide cost of jet fuel across the United States in November of 2009 was $4.24 per gallon. Assuming the average private jet gets three miles per gallon, the fuel cost would be $1.41 per mile. The cost of gasoline during the same month across the nation averaged $2.67 per gallon. Assuming the average SUV gets approximately 18 miles per gallon, the cost of fuel would be $.09 per mile.
Annual Fuel Statistics
In 2007, there was approximately 24 billion gallons of Jet A fuel sold in the United States. Approximately 90 percent of that amount was used by the airlines, while the remaining 2.5 million gallons is estimated to be used exclusively by private jets. Private automobiles used approximately 139 billion gallons of gasoline during the same year, but there are no statistics available to accurately determine what percentage of this amount can be attributed solely to SUVs.
Private jets are used for the speed and convenience. The use of a private jet allows access to more airports across the United States, compared to airline travel, and enjoys the flexibility of not having a fixed schedule. Meeting multiple clients hundreds of miles apart in an SUV can take days, as opposed to hours when using a private jet. These are a few of the factors that advocates of private jets use to demonstrate efficiency in terms of business as opposed to energy use and cost.
The automotive and aircraft industries have been using new technologies to increase the mileage of their products. Aircraft manufacturers have been substituting composite materials for aircraft structures to reduce drag and weight. The auto industry has employed new technologies such as hybrid electric motors and on-board computers to manage fuel flow, automatically adjusting the amount of fuel burned under different driving conditions.