Indicator Assessment

Final energy consumption in Europe by mode of transport

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-113-en
  Also known as: TERM 001
Published 12 Dec 2014 Last modified 11 May 2021
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This page was archived on 10 Feb 2021 with reason: Other (Discontinued indicator)

This indicator factsheet is based on data for the period 1990 to 2012. Between 1990 and 2007, annual transport energy consumption in the EEA member countries grew by 38%. However following this year, this trend reversed. Between 2007 and 2012, total energy demand in the EEA-33 transport sector declined by 10.6 %. This is shown in Figure 1 below. Total transport energy consumption for the EEA-33 has increased by 24.4% between 1990 and 2012. Latest estimates suggest that the downward trend in transport energy consumption has continued through 2013, with a further 1% drop in energy consumption.

The shipping sector saw the greatest decline in energy consumption during the recession; bunkers dropped by 10% between 2008 and 2009 alone, with a total decrease of 15% between 2007 and 2012. Energy use for road, aviation and rail transport fell by around 9% over the 2007 to 2012 time period.

Road transport accounts for the largest amount of energy consumption, accounting for 73% of total demand in 2012. Despite a decrease in energy consumption since the recession, total road transport energy consumption in 2012 was still almost 22% higher in the EEA-33 than in 1990. The fraction of road transport fuel that is diesel has continued to increase and in 2012 it amounted to 70%.


This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Transport energy consumption

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Final energy consumption by transport modes

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Total growth

Energy consumption from transport in 2012 was almost 23% higher in the EEA-33 than in 1990, as shown in Figure 2. The CO­2 performance of vehicles has improved during this period – for example, the emissions of the average new passenger car in Europe continues to fall and fell by 3.9% between 2012 and 2013. However the effects of these efficiency improvements have been offset by an overall increase in transport demand since 1990 (see TERM 12 and 13).

Longer term projections for the region foresee that economic recovery will lead to renewed growth in transport energy consumption to at least 2030 (albeit at a lesser rate than in the previous decade, as policies designed to reduce transport energy use begin to take effect). Beyond 2030, passenger and freight transport is predicted to grow at much slower rates, due to a stagnant population, deceleration in GDP growth, and saturation of demand.

Split of energy consumption between old and new EU Member States

The EEA-33 countries consumed approximately 17,356 petajoules (PJ, 1015 joules) for transport in 2012. The original EU-15 Member States consumed the vast majority, 83%, with 12% consumed by the new EU-13 Member States (including Croatia) and the remaining 5% by other EEA countries.

Overall trends in transport energy consumption

Transport energy consumption increased by 71% in the 13 new EU Member States since 1990. Only three Member States consumed less transport energy in 2012 compared to 1990: Greece, Estonia, and Latvia. Five have more than doubled their energy consumption over the same period: the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland and Slovenia. Malta has recorded a five-fold increase in its transport energy consumption almost solely through a fourty-fold increase in shipping activity (bunker fuels).
Up to 2007, transport energy consumption in the 15 original EU Member States had shown steady growth since 1990. In 2012, all of the EU-15 Member States experienced a continuation of the reduction in transport energy consumption compared to the peak in 2007. However, total energy consumption in the EU-15 is still nearly 20% higher than it was in 1990.

 Sectoral trends

In the EEA-33, aviation shows the greatest growth in energy consumption of all modes, increasing by nearly 61% between 1990 and 2012. This growth has mostly come from the EU-15, where air transport fuel consumption increased by almost 69%. The strongest period of growth for the EEA-33 was between 1990 and 2008, growing by 83%. Between 2008 and 2012 energy consumption in aviation fell by 14%. Air transport is predicted to be the mode which sees highest growth, and to become the second most important passenger mode after road transport by 2050, due to the increasing number of international trips. Nonetheless, energy consumption is predicted to grow less than activity as more energy efficient aircraft are introduced and the fleet is renewed; the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has made ambitious targets to reduce fuel consumption and emissions: improving fuel efficiency by 1.5% per year by 2020 and capping aviation emissions from 2020 (EC, 2013).
In the EU-13 energy consumption by road transport grew the most over the 1990 to 2012 period, increasing by 88%. In the EU-15 it has grown by 14%. This is matched with a steady increase in passenger car demand over the last two decades of approximately 20% (see TERM12), and an increase of over 70% in land freight transport in the EU-13 over the last decade (see TERM13).

Fuel trends

There is still a lack of statistics available for the share of energy between different transport activities in particular modes (particularly for road transport). While the use of gasoline, aviation kerosene or road diesel is known, modelling estimates are still needed to discern the proportion of energy used in urban transport, for example, or the amounts of road diesel fuel that has been used for passenger and freight transport. Therefore, there is still a need to get a better understanding of the share of road fuel consumption and CO2 due to different transport activities.
In consumption percentage terms, biodiesel and biogasoline increased the most between 1990 and 2012, but in 2012 still only held a 3.5% share of total transport energy consumption. Road diesel increased the most in absolute consumption terms since 1990, increasing by 3,804 PJ by 2012. Road gasoline decreased the most, by 2,428 PJ. The fuel splits are shown in Figure 2.


Policies that reduce the demand for transport, encourage modal shift towards more environmentally-friendly modes, improve transport management and enhance vehicles’ energy efficiency are required in order to meet targets set by the European Commission's 2011 Transport White Paper, the 2030 climate and energy package and the aim of a 70% reduction in oil consumption from 2008 by 2050. The European Commission proposed the 2030 policy framework for climate and energy in January 2014 (EC, 2014), and EU leaders have agreed to decide on the framework by October 2014 at the latest. The policy package includes:

  • A target to reduce EU domestic emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030;
  • An objective of increasing the share of renewable energy to at least 27% of the EU’s energy consumption by 2030;
  • Continued improvements to energy efficiency (but no specific target); and
  • A reform of the EU Emissions Trading System.


These build upon the objectives of the EU’s “20-20-20” targets of a 20% reduction in emissions from 1990 levels by 2020, increasing the share of renewable energy to 20% in energy consumption, and a 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency (EC, 2008). The latest projections predict that the EU will not meet the target of increasing energy efficiency (and thus reducing energy consumption) by 20%; estimating an increase of 17% instead by 2020 (Barroso, 2014).
Policies that focus only on the efficiency of vehicles will not be sufficient to overcome the dependency on road transport, as they may reduce the cost of transport movements, hence causing increased demand, via the so-called rebound effect (IEA, 2010). Further development must also optimise the performance of multimodal logistic chains, and use transport and infrastructure more efficiently through use of improved traffic management and information systems, advanced logistic and market measures such as completion of an integrated European railway market, and removing barriers to short sea shipping, for example (EC, 2011a).
The EEA countries adopted the Athens Declaration in May 2014, which emphasised the role of short sea shipping to shift long-distance transport away from roads in order to address capacity, energy and climate challenges (GR, 2014). This builds on the White Paper (EC, 2011b) goal of 30% of road freight over 300km should be shifted to other modes such as rail or waterborne transport by 2030, and more than 50% by 2050, to be facilitiated by efficient and ‘green’ freight corridors.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

This indicator considers total energy consumption in transport in PJ from 1990 onwards. The transport modes included are bunkers (sea transport), air transport (domestic and international), inland navigation, rail transport and road transport.


In this indicator, transport energy consumption is measured in terajoules (1 TJ = 1012 joules).


Policy context and targets

Context description

Reductions in fuel consumption in the transport sector, and/or reductions of related impacts, may be achieved via three primary means:

  • Avoid: reduce transport demand by limiting the number of trips and their length.
  • Shift: shift to more fuel-efficient transport modes.
  • Improve: increase the energy efficiency of vehicles and their energy sources. This includes fuel switching, i.e. changing to renewable or low-carbon fuels such as sustainable biofuels, or using renewable technologies for electric or fuel cell vehicles.

Although climate policy and the Kyoto Protocol are important drivers of reducing fossil fuel consumption (and air quality policy to a lesser extent), this indicator is primarily concerned with energy policy. Other related issues are addressed in TERM002 (Greenhouse gas emissions from transport in Europe), TERM003 (Emissions of air pollutants from transport) and TERM031 (Use of renewable fuels in transport in Europe).


The EU has set itself the following targets:

  • By 2020, there should be a 30 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, in the context of a global agreement, and a 20 % unilateral reduction.
  • The EU's Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 calls for an 80 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as a global action to prevent climate change (Decision No 406/2009/EC).

If the 2030 policy framework, proposed in January 2014, is accepted, these targets will be built upon. Additional targets — which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 % by 2030 and increase the proportion of energy that is renewable by at least 27 %, also by 2030 — will be set. Improvements in energy efficiency are still encouraged (as part of the '20-20-20' target to increase energy efficiency by 20 % by 2020), but no new target has been proposed (EC, 2014).

Two key documents published by the European Commission in 2011 outline possible strategies for the transport sector, which are compatible with the 2050 target. These are the Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050 (EC, 2011) and the third decennial Transport White Paper, Roadmap to a single European transport area — Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system (EC, 2011).

The impact assessment that accompanied the 2011 Transport White Paper (EC, 2011) suggests that a 70 % reduction in oil consumption in transport from 2008 levels should be achieved by 2050.

Related policy documents

  • COM (2008) 11
    First assessment of national energy efficiency plans as required by Directive 2006/32/EC on energy end-use efficiency and energy services – Moving towards together on energy efficiency
  • COM(2006) 545
    Action Plan for Energy Efficiency
  • COM(2007) 19
    Results of the review of the Community Strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from passenger cars and light-commercial vehicles.
  • COM(2010) 2020 final, Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth
    European Commission, 2010. Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. COM(2010) 2020 final. 
  • COM(2011) 21
    A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy
  • COM(2011) 112 - A Roadmap for moving to a competitive low carbon economy in 2050
    With its "Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050" the European Commission is looking beyond these 2020 objectives and setting out a plan to meet the long-term target of reducing domestic emissions by 80 to 95% by mid-century as agreed by European Heads of State and governments. It shows how the sectors responsible for Europe's emissions - power generation, industry, transport, buildings and construction, as well as agriculture - can make the transition to a low-carbon economy over the coming decades.
  • COM(2011) 144 Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system
  • COM(2014) 15 final A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030
    Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions "A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030". 22 January 2014, COM(2014) 15 final; {SWD(2014) 15 final}, {SWD(2014) 16 final}.  This Communication p resents an integrated policy framework with binding EU-wide targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions and the development of renewable energy sources and with objectives for energy efficiency improvements for the period up to 2030.
  • Decision No 406/2009/EC (Effort Sharing Decision)
    Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community’s greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments up to 2020
  • DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC
    DIRECTIVE 2009/28/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2001/77/EC and 2003/30/EC
  • Directive 2009/29/EC
    Directive 2009/29/EC of the European parliament and of the Council amending directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the community.
  • DIRECTIVE 2009/30/EC
    DIRECTIVE 2009/30/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 23 April 2009 amending Directive 98/70/EC as regards the specification of petrol, diesel and gas-oil and introducing a mechanism to monitor and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and amending Council Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the specification of fuel used by inland waterway vessels and repealing Directive 93/12/EEC
    Regulation (ec) no 443/2009 of the European parliament and of the Council setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles.
  • REGULATION (EC) No 661/2009
    REGULATION (EC) No 661/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL concerning type-approval requirements for the general safety of motor vehicles, their trailers and systems, components and separate technical units intended therefor
  • Regulation (EU) 2018/842
    REGULATION (EU) 2018/842 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 30 May 2018 on binding annual greenhouse gas emission reductions by Member States from 2021 to 2030 contributing to climate action to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement and amending Regulation (EU) No 525/2013.
  • REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011
    REGULATION (EU) No 510/2011 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Union's integrated approach to reduce CO 2 emissions from light-duty vehicles


Methodology for indicator calculation

Energy statistics for transport are collected from Member States and collated by Eurostat. To assess whether total energy consumption in transport is growing, time series data for energy consumed were obtained from Eurostat. Data for various fuels were downloaded for bunker (sea), air (domestic and international), inland navigation, road and rail transport. Data for bunkers cover the quantities of fuel delivered to sea-going vessels of all countries. Data for inland and coastal waters are not included in bunker (sea) data. Data for air transport cover quantities of fuel consumed in national and international air traffic. Data on the energy consumed by electric and diesel trains are included within rail data. 

Since Eurostat data are used to process statistics, the Eurostat methodology should be referred to for data collection and specification (see Eurostat, ITF and UNECE, 2009).

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling is applied for this indicator.

Methodology references

No methodology references available.



Methodology uncertainty

Data trends within individual countries are difficult to ascertain, as energy consumption data often show unexpected variability from year to year. Energy consumption is calculated based on fuel sales and a common questionnaire is used to report it.

Data sets uncertainty

National data vary significantly from country to country and depending on the fuel type and production/consumption sector. The most reliable data come from the EU-15 countries. However, oil pipeline data are lacking for the majority of countries, making them less reliable. Occasionally, data used in older time series may change because of revisions in the methodology used. Such changes have resulted in small alterations, of a few per cent.

For the EU-13, data are generally much less reliable. Gaps are frequent, as are conspicuous jumps in consumption (e.g. doubling or more).

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified.

Data sources

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • TERM 001
Frequency of updates
This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.
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Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



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