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.

Transitioning to electric vehicles

Electric vehicles play a massive role in reducing transport tailpipe emissions and meeting the goals defined in the European Green Deal. There has been a steady increase in new electric car registrations annually in the EU, from 700 units in 2010 to 11% of newly registered passenger cars in 2020.

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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