I assume that it makes sense to ask for the energy costs of transportation of different goods per weight and volumetric mass density, depending on the means of transportation (truck, train, ship, etc.) and on the distance of transportation.

I assume that there are either data or plots for this, but I don't know where to find them. A typical plot I'm looking for would answer the question:

How much energy (including losses) does it take to transport one metric ton of good X (having volumetric mass density $d$) by train for 100 resp. 1000 miles, today and 100 years ago?

In case you don't find this question (or approach) sensible, please tell me why.

Background: I'm planning a data visualization project of transportation of all kinds of goods. One part of the project will be the routes of transportation: along which paths and for what distances are which volumes of goods transported? (On a global and a local level.) Another part shall be the costs of transportation (to which finally will also count the costs of lifting goods, e.g. in a harbour, but maybe these are negligible).

  • $\begingroup$ The main thing you need is information on cost of a typical ship / train / truck per kg of load (forget about lifting). For today and 100 years ago. Alternatively, and potentially easier to obtain, are costs per ton and 1000km. I'm not an expert, but I'm 100% sure there are annual data on the average cost of one ISO freight container for several routes. Those might give you something to start with, you might then need to convert your transport goods into the number of ISO containers. $\endgroup$
    – E. Sommer
    Apr 29, 2019 at 10:04

1 Answer 1


The paper "The impact of scale on energy intensity in freight transportation" by Gucwa and Schaefer has some of the information you need. Figure 5 from that paper is presented below:enter image description here

The site ShipMap.Org has a data visualisation of shipping routes, where you can filter by type of freight.

(Disclosure: these are all colleagues of mine except Gucwa)

  • $\begingroup$ As you seem to be related to ShipMap.org somehow: Can you tell (roughly) how many ships are on the way being not maximally loaded (or even not loaded at all)? (For overseas shippings and flights this number may be negligible - because one heavily tries to avoid it - but for truck transports this might be a significant number.) $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2019 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ Not readily available for free. Do you have a budget? $\endgroup$
    – 410 gone
    Apr 29, 2019 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ Not yet, i.e. not at the moment. $\endgroup$ Apr 29, 2019 at 12:04

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