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In recent years, cleaner road vehicles and fuels have become progressively more available, yet the sector’s impacts on human health, the environment and climate change are persistent. A fundamental shift toward sustainability is needed in the way we move people and goods.
Engines are more efficient but more vehicles are on the road
Growing transport volumes have been driving Europe’s road transport emissions up in the past two decades. Total greenhouse gas emissions from both passenger cars and heavy goods vehicles have increased in Europe, despite better engine efficiency and the use of biofuels.
According to EEA data, CO2 emissions from passenger cars in the 27 EU Member States increased by 5.8%, and emissions from heavy goods vehicles increased by 5.5%, from 2000 to 2019.
The main reason for the total increase in both car and truck emissions was growing transport volumes, which have only partially been offset by better fuel efficiency and the use of biofuels.
More electric vehicles on the road
Electric vehicles play a massive role in reducing transport tailpipe emissions and meeting the goals defined in the European Green Deal.
Considerable progress in the uptake of electric cars and vans in the EU was made in 2022, with 21.6% of new car registrations being electric vehicles. Totalling close to two million electric car registrations in one year, up from 1,74 million in 2021.
The number of electric vans on European roads also continued to grow, reaching a share of 5.5% of new registrations in 2022.
In the last year, the number of newly registered battery electric vehicles increased by 25% while the number of plug-in hybrid cars remained stable. Battery electric vehicles accounted for the vast majority of electric vans registrations in 2022.
To aid the transition to electric vehicle use, the EU aims to have one million public charging points available to residents by 2025.
Source: EEA, 2023
Note: Red areas indicate where the ground sank compared to the measurements from the year before.
What can Copernicus data tell us?
Roads are built on land and the ground under our feet might not be as solid as we think. In fact, the ground can move many centimetres per year; it can sink or rise, due to for example subsidence, landslides or human activity.
Within the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, the European Ground Motion Service (EGMS) provides detailed information on such surface movement.
EGMS data can be used to monitor the displacement of critical transport infrastructure such as roads, tunnels, and bridges. This results in more effective maintenance and prevention of roadblocks or traffic jams.