Transport sector accounts for 25% of all energy consumption in the world
Whether moving freight or passengers, transportation plays a major role in our society and economy. There are broadly four different modes of transport – air, road, rail and marine. Demand for transport has been rapidly increasing along with economic growth and is expected to continue to do so well into the future. Currently, the transport sector is one of the largest sources of both greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution because of its heavy reliance on energy-dense oil products, mainly petrol and diesel. Despite the strong pressures to move away from hydrocarbons due to the need to mitigate climate change and national plans to reduce reliance on fuel imports, there has so far been limited success in shifting towards a low carbon transport sector, especially in comparison to achievements in electricity. Shifting to lower carbon fuels in transport is a difficult task since neither batteries nor hydrogen can yet provide energy density levels high enough to substitute for oil products in some use cases. However, policy initiatives in the UK and worldwide are facilitating the shift to lower carbon means of transport, including financial incentives for buying low-emission cars, and various bans announced on future sales of petrol and diesel cars.
A transformation of the transport sector is underway, characterised mainly by three trends: electrification, shared mobility and automation. Widespread integration of electric vehicles to the energy system is expected to have significant systemic impacts, as it can allow the roll-out of smart charging at scale; this can provide additional flexibility for managing the electrical grid. Though this transformation is driven by technological developments and market forces, these changes present opportunities to achieve a more sustainable transportation sector. There is particular potential to reduce transport emissions through changes such as modal shift, behavioural change, vehicle efficiency improvements, the use of low carbon fuels, and new business models.
Learn more about transport by exploring records published on our Energy Matrix.
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Discover UK professionals' views on decarbonising transport by reading our annual Energy Barometer.