Size of the vehicle fleet

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-141-en
Also known as: TERM 032
Created 08 Nov 2017 Published 05 Dec 2017 Last modified 05 Dec 2017
10 min read
Topics: ,
The level of car ownership in the EU-28 area is growing rapidly, especially in the EU-13, where the size of the fleet in countries with relatively lower car ownership levels is increasing. Growth in private vehicle ownership has been shown to lead to an increase in the use of private vehicles and in subsequent environmental effects, while decreasing the attractiveness of public transport or non-motorised transport modes. While the number of passenger cars per capita increased by one-fifth between 2000 and 2015, the number of buses per capita increased by less than 3 %. The number of trucks per unit of GDP (truck intensity) decreased slightly between 2005 and 2015, and is generally higher in the EU-13, with Bulgaria, Poland and Greece displaying the highest values in 2015. In the EU-28, the percentage of diesel cars in the total car fleet continues to increase. In 2015, 38 % of the EU-28 car fleet had diesel engines. This 'dieselisation' is particularly high in  France (70 %) and Luxembourg (65 %), with Lithuania (63 %) and Belgium (61 %) also showing values above 60 %. 

Key messages

  • The level of car ownership in the EU-28 area is growing rapidly, especially in the EU-13, where the size of the fleet in countries with relatively lower car ownership levels is increasing. Growth in private vehicle ownership has been shown to lead to an increase in the use of private vehicles and in subsequent environmental effects, while decreasing the attractiveness of public transport or non-motorised transport modes. While the number of passenger cars per capita increased by one-fifth between 2000 and 2015, the number of buses per capita increased by less than 3 %.
  • The number of trucks per unit of GDP (truck intensity) decreased slightly between 2005 and 2015, and is generally higher in the EU-13, with Bulgaria, Poland and Greece displaying the highest values in 2015.
  • In the EU-28, the percentage of diesel cars in the total car fleet continues to increase. In 2015, 38 % of the EU-28 car fleet had diesel engines. This 'dieselisation' is particularly high in France (70 %) and Luxembourg (65 %), with Lithuania (63 %) and Belgium (61 %) also showing values above 60 %. 

Is the vehicle fleet expanding?

Vehicle ownership and truck intensity

Trucks
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Passengers cars, buses, coaches
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Table
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Passenger car ownership

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Table
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Trucks per unit of GDP at current market prices

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Data sources:
  • Statistical pocketbook provided by  Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DG Mobility and Transport)
  • National accounts provided by  Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN)
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Table
Data sources:
  • Statistical pocketbook provided by  Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DG Mobility and Transport)
  • National accounts provided by  Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs (DG ECFIN)
Explore chart interactively

Dieselisation (share of diesel cars in the total passenger car fleet)

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Passenger transport vehicles

Car ownership in the EU-28 area increased considerably between 2000 and 2015, growing from 411 to 500 cars per 1 000 inhabitants, an average increase of 1.3 % per year. The corresponding values for 2005 and 2010 were 447 and 477 cars per 1000 inhabitants, respectively. The average number of passenger cars per capita also increased during the same period, particularly in the EU-13, following economic growth there. However, in the older Member States, this figure increased only marginally over the last five years. Despite this increase, car ownership in the EU-13 remains considerably lower that that in the old EU-15. Increasing private vehicle ownership often leads to increased transport demand and subsequent environmental pressures, as the costs related to vehicle use are relatively low and many cost items are fixed (e.g. depreciation, insurance and holder’s tax).

In the EU-28 area, the main factors underpinning the increase in the number of passenger cars per capita are linked to the economic situation of companies and particulars, together with fiscal incentives. Company cars make up about 50 % of new car sales in Europe (Copenhagen Economics, 2010). In Germany, Europe's biggest market for cars, about 64 % of new car sales were registered to companies in 2014 (Kraftfahrt‑Bundesamt, 2015). Given that many of these cars will enter the second-hand market once their lease is finished, policy incentives (including subsidies) that influence the choice of company car also have an impact on a country's entire car stock. The other main economic factor is the real income of car buyers relative to car prices. In recent years, this has probably resulted in decreased demand, as most salaries in Europe have fallen in terms of real disposable income. However, vehicle purchase prices have also fallen steadily in relation to average consumer prices, making it easier for people to afford a car (see TERM020). So overall, the number of passenger cars in the EU-28 continued to increase over the period. The growth of passenger cars per capita is also influenced by other important factors, including (a) a decreasing number of people per household, (b) an increasing number of cars per household and (c) increases in the average travel distance, lower accessibility to and flexibility of public transport, and changes in lifestyle patterns.

The share of diesel cars in the entire passenger car fleet continuously increased in most Member States between 2005 and 2015. In the entire EU-28 area, it increased from 27 % to 41%, whereas the percentage for 2010 was 35 %. This 'dieselisation' is particularly high in France (70 %) and Luxembourg (65 %), with Lithuania (63 %) and Belgium (61 %) also showing values above 60 %. From an energy efficiency point of view, this means that less energy is consumed for the same transport activity (expressed in passenger-kilometres or tonne-kilometres). From a pollutant emissions point of view, 'dieselisation' results in a considerable increase in nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions, both strongly linked with poor air quality levels in EU cities. Some cities in Europe showed an increase in concentrations of NO2 measured close to traffic, mainly due to the increasing number of diesel vehicles (see TERM004).

Over the last few years, alternative propulsion technologies have slowly penetrated the European vehicle fleet (TERM034). The number of new alternatively fuelled cars in the fleet is still very small (around 1 %) and electric vehicles (EVs) continue to constitute only a very small fraction of new registrations in the EU‑28 (0.4 %). However, sales of 'pure' battery EVs increased by 49 % in 2015, compared with 2014, continuing a trend that has been increasing since 2008 (13 % increase in 2016, compared with 2015). Financial incentives, increased public acceptability and market availability, among other factors, are behind this rise.

The average level of powered two-wheeler (including mopeds and motorcycles) ownership in the EU-28 area increased by about 45 % between 2000 and 2015, whereas the increase between 2005 and 2015 amounted to just around 16 %. The number of buses and coaches per 1 000 inhabitants increased by about 3 % between 2005 and 2015, whereas this number remained almost constant over the 2000-2005 period.

Freight transport vehicles

The number of trucks per unit of GDP (truck intensity) decreased slightly between 2005 and 2015 and is considerably higher in the EU-13 than in the old EU-15 Member States, with Bulgaria, Poland and Greece displaying the highest values in 2015. The trend in 'own account' transport (i.e. operations in which a company transports its own goods from one place to another) in the EU-15 has declined over the years. On the other hand, EU-13 Member States have a relatively higher share of 'own account' road freight transport and, consequently, a lower share of 'hire or reward' transport (i.e. when the transport operator is not the owner of the goods) compared with EU-15 Member States. In principle, 'hire or reward' transport companies would be in a better position to pick up different loads at the end of their routes, reducing the amount of journeys where they run empty. This means that a higher 'own account' share will require more trucks for the same amount of transport, which could explain the higher truck intensity in the EU-13 Member States.

The high number of trucks per unit of GDP observed in the Baltic States and the newest EU Member States is related to low GDP levels and the relatively high (road) freight transport intensity. Malta and Cyprus also show relatively high numbers of trucks per unit of GDP, which could be explained by the absence of alternative inland freight transport modes (there are no railways on these islands).

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

Vehicle ownership is defined as the number of road vehicles (passenger cars and two-wheelers) per number of inhabitants. The number of buses and coaches per number of inhabitants has also been included. The indicator can be extended to include other vehicles specified by passenger transport mode (i.e. coaches, rail, maritime, air), although these are not privately owned.

Freight transport intensity is defined as number of vehicles per unit of GDP specified by freight transport mode (road, rail, inland, maritime).
The share of diesel cars in the entire passenger car fleet is defined as the number of diesel vehicles per total number of passenger cars.

Units

Vehicle ownership is expressed as the number of vehicles per 1 000 inhabitants. Freight transport intensity is expressed as the number of heavy duty trucks per million Euro of GDP in constant 2010 prices. Dieselisation is expressed as the percentage of diesel vehicles in the entire passenger car fleet.


Policy context and targets

Context description

The level of vehicle ownership is closely related to car use and thus volume of mobility. Especially in urban areas, it is also related to traffic congestion and the higher concentration of air pollutants in the atmosphere.

Targets

There are no specific objectives or targets related to the size and composition of the vehicle fleet. Policy objectives are rather set with respect to the average age and environmental performance of the fleet.

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

For passenger transport, vehicle ownership is calculated by dividing the total number of vehicles in each vehicle category (i.e. passenger cars, buses and coaches, two-wheelers) by the number of inhabitants in each country or country group. For freight transport, truck intensity is calculated by dividing the total number of trucks (i.e. light and heavy duty vehicles, freight trains) by the total GDP in each country or country group. The share of diesel passenger cars in the passenger car fleet is calculated by dividing the number of diesel passenger cars by the total passenger car fleet.

Methodology for gap filling

Data gaps filling was needed for the dieselisation figure. When Eurostat data were missing, EC4MACS data were used

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

Data are considered reliable as they are derived from official statistics (DG MOVE, Eurostat).

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

information.png Tags:
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DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Efficiency indicator (Type C - Are we improving?)

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Diana Vedlugaite

EEA Management Plan

2017 1.1.2 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100