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.

2021 saw a significant increase in the uptake of electric cars and vans in the EU-27. Electric car registrations for the year were close to 1,729,000, up from 1,061,000 in 2020. This represents an increase from 10.7% to 17.8% in the share of total new car registrations in just 1 year.

The uptake of electric vans also increased, from 2.1% of total new registrations in 2020 to 3.1% in 2021. The number of battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars are comparable in 2021, while battery electric vehicles accounted for the majority of electric van registrations in 2021.

This increase is thanks, in part, to incentives for electric car use. Electric vehicle incentives have been proven to increase the number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the road and decrease CO2 emissions and air pollutants.

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, 2022

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.

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